Jon S, List,

You're trying to develop an interpretation of the meaning of "perfect sign" as 
it is used in EP 2:545n25. The footnote refers to a passage in "The Basis of 
Pragmaticism in the Normative Sciences", where he talks about an ordinary 
conversation as "a wonderfully perfect kind of sign functioning." (EP, 2: 391).

For starters, I looked at Peirce's definitions  of "perfect" in the Century 
Dictionary in cases where it is used as an adjective. Here are four definitions 
that seem relevant:

1. brought to consummation, fully finished, completed in every part.

2. full; whole; entire; complete.

4. without blemish or defect; lacking in nothing; the best, highest, or most 
complete type; exact or unquestionable in every particular, e.g., perfect 
likeness, a perfect specimen

7. completely effective; satisfactory in every respect

With those definitions in hand, let's consider the following passage from the 
PARTIAL SYNOPSIS OF A PROPOSED WORK IN LOGIC where he describes a relatively 
perfect process of signification:

Transuasion in its obsistent aspect, or Mediation, will be shown to be subject 
to two degrees of degeneracy. Genuine mediation is the character of a Sign. A 
Sign is anything which is related to a Second thing, its Object, in respect to 
a Quality, in such a way as to bring a Third thing, its Interpretant, into 
relation to the same Object, and that in such a way as to bring a Fourth into 
relation to that Object in the same form, ad infinitum. If the series is broken 
off, the Sign, in so far, falls short of the perfect significant character. It 
is not necessary that the Interpretant should actually exist. A being in futuro 
will suffice. (CP 2.92) [my emphasis for the underlined phrase]

For the purpose of getting clearer about how Peirce is using "perfect" as an 
adjective to modify "sign" and "sign functioning" in the "The Basis of 
Pragmaticism in the Normative Sciences", I recommend trying to interpret those 
uses in light of the way he is characterizing "perfect significant character" 
here. Note how central the idea is to the account of the genuine mediation of a 
sign as a process that is capable of being interpreted further--potentially 
without end. As we know, the validity of scientific reasoning hinges on such an 

Hope that helps.


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

From: Jon Alan Schmidt <>
Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2018 8:49 AM
Subject: [PEIRCE-L] Perfect Sign Revisited


Having gotten a better handle on Peirce's concept of a Quasi-mind, we can now 
make another attempt at sorting out what he meant by "perfect sign" in EP 
2:545n25.  Here is a summary of what that text tells us about it.

  *   It is the aggregate formed by a Sign and all the Signs that its 
occurrence carries with it, and involves the present existence of no other Sign 
except those that are its ingredients.
  *   It is not in a statical condition, because it is an existent that acts; 
and whatever acts, changes.
  *   Its every real ingredient is aging, its energy of action upon the 
Interpretant is running low, its sharp edges are wearing down, and its outlines 
are becoming more indefinite.
  *   It is perpetually being acted upon by its Object, receiving from it the 
accretions of new Signs that bring it fresh energy and kindle the energy that 
it already had, but which had lain dormant.
  *   It constantly undergoes spontaneous changes that do not happen by its 
will, but are phenomena of growth.
  *   It is a Quasi-mind and the Sheet of Assertion of Existential Graphs.
The Perfect Sign involves the present existence (2ns) of only those Signs that 
comprise it, which are aging and wearing down; yet it continues receiving 
accretions of new Signs (3ns) from its Object and undergoing spontaneous 
changes (1ns).  After further contemplation, I now believe that Peirce was 
describing the same thing here as in the passage about "the ideal sign" that I 
have mentioned previously, which he wrote a couple of years earlier.

CSP:  What we call a "fact" is something having the structure of a proposition, 
but supposed to be an element of the very universe itself. The purpose of every 
sign is to express "fact," and by being joined with other signs, to approach as 
nearly as possible to determining an interpretant which would be the perfect 
Truth, the absolute Truth, and as such (at least, we may use this language) 
would be the very Universe. Aristotle gropes for a conception of perfection, or 
entelechy, which he never succeeds in making clear. We may adopt the word to 
mean the very fact, that is, the ideal sign which should be quite perfect, and 
so identical,--in such identity as a sign may have,--with the very matter 
denoted united with the very form signified by it. The entelechy of the 
Universe of being, then, the Universe qua fact, will be that Universe in its 
aspect as a sign, the "Truth" of being. The "Truth," the fact that is not 
abstracted but complete, is the ultimate interpretant of every sign. (EP 2:304; 

Contrary to my previous hypothesis, "Perfect Sign" is not synonymous with 
"Quasi-mind"; instead, it designates the Truth that corresponds to the 
Universe.  As such, it also satisfies the last bullet above, since the Sheet of 
Assertion or Phemic Sheet is not only a Quasi-mind, but also "a Seme of The 
Truth, that is, of the widest Universe of Reality" (CP 4.553; 1906).  Of 
course, this does not at all entail that a Quasi-mind and the Universe are the 
same thing.

CSP:  … one and the same construction may be, when regarded in two different 
ways, two altogether different diagrams; and that to which it testifies in the 
one capacity, it must not be considered as testifying to in the other capacity. 
For example, the Entire Existential Graph of a Phemic Sheet, in any state of 
it, is a Diagram of the logical Universe, as it is also a Diagram of a 
Quasi-mind; but it must not, on that account, be considered as testifying to 
the identity of those two. It is like a telescope eye piece which at one focus 
exhibits a star at which the instrument is pointed, and at another exhibits all 
the faults of the objective lens. (NEM 4:324; 1906)

Any comments?  I am guessing that these topics must simply not be of much 
interest, or people are just very busy these days, since I find it hard to 
believe that everyone agrees with everything I have been posting. :-)


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