Gary R., List:

In your original presentation of this thought experiment, the child was a
toddler and did not scream "Maman" or any other recognizable word, but
simply "Aie!"  As such, I took it to be an involuntary reflex, such as any
of us likely would exclaim when surprised by pain, although as an
English-speaker I would presumably be more inclined to say something like
"Ouch!" or perhaps another four-letter expression.  Frankly, I find it
implausible that the first thing to come out of someone's mouth--especially
such a young one--upon touching a hot burner would be "Maman."

Be that as it may, further contemplation of this example already led me to
settle on new tentative answers to my own questions, and I discovered your
reply upon coming online to post them.  Your points below are well-taken,
especially once again correctly diagnosing my affinity for the abstract
over the concrete, a fault that I am unlikely ever to escape completely.

I now agree that what happens within the child is Sign-action, not dyadic
action/reaction, even if I retain the assumption--which you understandably
find dubious--that the steps from finger contact to vocal chord vibration
constitute a series of *dynamical *causes and effects.  The reason is
because of the potential (and perhaps probable) Habit-change that I
posited--the girl is capable of learning by experience, and hence acquiring
the new habit of *not *touching stove burners as the Final Interpretant of
this particular Sign.  My new hypothesis is that *any *action involving a
Mind (or Quasi-mind) as *either *utterer *or *interpreter is irreducibly

I also agree that if the child screams "Maman" it is a *genuine *Sign for
the mother, as any word *must *be.  That would make the girl its utterer,
since she would be *intentionally *producing it.  However, if the scream is
something truly *involuntary*, like I take "Aie!" to be, I am still
inclined to view it as a natural/degenerate Sign.  My other new hypothesis
is that *only *a Sign that has Minds (or Quasi-minds) as *both *its
utterer *and
*its interpreter--which may be two temporally sequential versions of the *same
*Mind (or Quasi-mind)--is *genuine*, the kind that exists in Replicas.


Jon Alan Schmidt - Olathe, Kansas, USA
Professional Engineer, Amateur Philosopher, Lutheran Layman -

On Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 7:10 PM, Gary Richmond <>

> Jon, list,
> You wrote:
> I guess I can boil down the main feedback that I am seeking to two
> questions about the girl's scream.
> For the child, as an *involuntary *reflex, is it a Dynamic Interpretant
> produced by triadic semiosis, or merely an effect produced by a series of
> dyadic causes?
> ​. . .
> when the Sign, Object, and Interpretant are all Existents (2ns), how do we
> distinguish Sign-action from brute dynamical action/reaction?
> ​You say it is "an involuntary reflex," while I don't see it as merely
> that. In my view the dynamic interpretant *is* produced by triadic
> semiosis, that is to say that this is an example of something which is more
> than an involuntary reflect. I'll try to explain my position.
> Say the child screams "Maman!" I don't see how you can abstract her very
> human cry (which *may* 'mean', at least in part, "Maman" *whatever* she
> may scream), how can you reduce her cry which, as I've just suggested, may
> include a deep relationship to her mother (including the very word,
> "Maman"), to mere dyadic causes. It seems to me that you have overly
> abstracted the whole situation, left out, for prime example, the humanity
> (the deep relations to other humans, notably, her mother) involved in the
> child's semiosis. I personally have no problem distinguishing her semiosis
> from brute reaction. That you seem to suggests to me, again, your
> self-acknowledged tendency to look at such things more abstractly than I,
> for example, do.
> So, in short, it seems to me that you maybe be over-analyzing in an
> extremely abstract manner what is *vitally* involved in such an
> occurrence, *as if the IO-R-DI had no local, in this case human,
> residence*. In particular I find the child's Representamen and especially
> her Interpretant not to be, at least not *predominantly*, a 2ns. I think
> that in a way you've abstracted the 'life' out of this (albeit,
> hypothetical) semiosic situation.
> 2. For the mother, is it [the scream GR] a Replica (Token) of a genuine
> Sign (Type), or a natural/degenerate Sinsign?
> .
> ​ . .​
> how do we distinguish a Replica from a natural/degenerate Sinsign?
> Whether the child screams "Maman" or "Aie" or whatever, I see the mother
> responding--at least principally--to the Replica of a genuine Sign, while
> all the intense feeling conveyed in the non-verbal aspects of the Sign (the
> harsh, jagged intensity of her cry, "Maman," signaling that something
> terribly awful or painful has happened to the child) are present as well,
> but especially directed toward her mother. So, is 2ns involved in her
> response? Most certainly, as such extreme semiosis is highly complex. But
> it is mixed with genuine semiosis in my view.
> To abstract "all that" from the semiosic experience of the mother, should
> you suggest (as I think you are suggesting) that the child's scream is
> *merely* a "natural/degenerate Sinsign" makes me once again think that
> perhaps you are enthralled--at least in this hypothetical case--by semiotic
> abstraction, especially abstract terminology, and in doing so have
> disconnected your analysis from not only "the life of the sign," but from
> life more generally--from semiosis as it is lived in all its complexity.
> Best,
> Gary R
> [image: Gary Richmond]
> *Gary Richmond*
> *Philosophy and Critical Thinking*
> *Communication Studies*
> *LaGuardia College of the City University of New York*
> *718 482-5690 <(718)%20482-5690>*
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