Jon S, Gary F, Gary R, List,

I've been thinking about Peirce's explanations of how signs represent objects 
to interpretants. In this vein, I'd like to ask a straightforward question 
about the relation of determination and the role it seems to play in his 
account of semiosis. Some have suggested that the relation of determination 
seems awfully vague--so much so that it is hard to see how it can do any 
explanatory work.

For my part, I think Peirce is engaging in a strategy of explaining richer 
sorts of relations and processes, such as representation and signification, by 
appealing to the relatively simpler relations of determination. The centerpiece 
of the account, I tend to think, is the explanation of how the object 
determines the sign, and of how the sign determines the interpretant, so that 
the object is able to determine the interpretant via the mediation of the 
sign--and via the relations that the sign bears to the object and interpretant. 
I find Peirce's explanatory strategy to be quite promising precisely because 
(1) it offers an account of what is involved in this mediation and (2), this 
process of mediation does seem to be central in understanding processes of 
representation and signification.

So, let me ask, is Peirce offering a strategy of explaining more complex sorts 
of relations and processes (i.e., mediation, representation, signification, 
etc.) by appealing to those that are relatively simpler (i.e., determination)? 
If so, is there good reason to think this might be a winning strategy?


Jeffrey Downard
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Northern Arizona University
(o) 928 523-8354
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