Deely’s THE FOUR AGES OF UNDERSTANDING, a huge book, is an attempt to deal with 
Peirce’s statement, pg. 263, THE ESSENTIAL PIERCE, “Thirdly, the progress of 
science cannot gofar except by collaboration; or, to speak more accurately, no 
mind can take one step without the aid of other minds” which John Deely takes 
to an even more extreme extent, but justified by Peirce, on pp. 662-667. This 
abridged section on Aquinas and his sign terminology actually indicates the 
primary turning point of the doctrine of signs from something merely off-hand 
in Augustine to actual usage in Aquinas. The question came up for me in Deely’s 
justification of putting Heidegger in Peirce’s line of thought which I here 
took time out to make a real ‘first’ to untangle the web of Aquinas’ semiotics 
which Deely says is necessary to understand the semiotic line of thought 
through Aquinas to Poinsot to Peirce to Heidegger to Deely. I wish I had 
completely digested all
 this – and I have not at all done so yet – before encountering the inscrutable 
John Poinsot (or John of St. Thomas).
[page 667] Although Martin Heidegger’s has neither the scope of Peirce’s 
thought nor the clarity as to the being of sign as central to the development 
of human understanding, what Heidegger does contribute at the foundations of 
the postmodern age is an uncompromising clarity and rigor that exceeds Peirce’s 
own in focusing on the central problem of human understanding vis-à-vis the 
notion of Umwelt. This heretofore neglected problem is what is central to the 
problematic of philosophy in a postmodern age. In Peirce’s terms it is the 
problem of Firstness; in the language of Aquinas it is the problem of 
being-as-first-known; in the language of Heidegger it is the problem of the 
forgotteness of being, “Seinsvergessenheit”. This problem is the ground and 
soil of the doctrine of signs. That is why I first brought it up in [page 668] 
treating Aquinas [see below], and why I have focused on it in treating Peirce. 
As to Heidegger, Vincent Guagliardo
 (1944-1995), in the time that he had, said enough to establish the historical 
connections for those with the good sense to look further.” [footnote 166: This 
is mainly articles hard or impossible for me to locate and read unless he has a 
website somewhere. Can anyone help me?  The only thing of his I have is the 
magnificent St. Thomas Aquinas Commentary on the Book of Causes , CUA 1996, 
which I think is crucial in understanding Aquinas in general.]
 [footnote 165: See, in chapter 7 above, 1, “The Problem of Sign in Aquinas”, 
p. 331ff; and 2] “The Problem of Being as First Known”, p. 341ff.: 
1] “Now a sensible effect, being the primary and direct object of man’s 
knowledge (since all our knowledge springs from the senses), by its very nature 
leads to the knowledge of something else... But intelligible effects do not 
have this [Augustine’s] rationale of sign except insofar as insofar as they are 
manifested by some signs [footnote 176: Deely’s commentary: “By some sensible 
effects with which they are entangled in human experience”]. And in this way, 
too, some things which are not sensible are yet said in a certain way to be 
sacraments, namely, insofar as they are signified by sensible things.” Summa 
theologiae  III.60.4 adversus 1 (Busa 2, p. 862); 
2] “A thing cannot be called a sign, properly speaking, unless it be something 
which one arrives at an awareness of something else as if by discoursing 
[footnote 179, p. 333: Deely’s commentary: “That is by passing from the one 
thing as known first to the other as known after and because of the first”] ¶ 
First,  Questiones Disputatae de Veritate, question 9, article 4, adversus 4 
(Bursa 3, p. 60); 
3] “Even though in our experience of material objects whose effects are more 
known to us than are the causes a sign is something posterior in nature, 
nevertheless that it be prior or posterior in nature does not belong to the 
rationale of sign properly understood, but only that it be something logically 
prior” [page 334] [footnote 181, p.334: Deely’s commentary: “Praecognitum: that 
is a sign  must be something that precedes the signified in knowledge logically 
whether or not it so precedes temporally. This point will become crucial, we 
will see (especially in the discussion of sense qualities in chapter 12, p. 
522ff, Four Ages of Understanding), in the semiotic analysis not only of icons 
within perception and intellection, but also in the analysis of prescissively 
considered, where common and proper sensibles prove no less related by sign 
relations than one perceived object to another, or any object perceived or 
understood to the organism
 cognizing it; so that the whole of our awareness, from its origins in sense 
experience to its loftiest constructs of understanding, proves to be a web of 
sign relations.]¶
 ...[Deely] The relation constitutive of any sign as such cannot be reduced to 
any relation of cause or effect.” ¶ 
Second, [page 335] [footnote 186: 
4] “But a spoken word is a final effect issuing from the understanding. 
Therefore the rationale of sign belongs more to it than to the concept of the 
understanding; and likewise too the rationale of word, which is imposed from 
the manifestation of the concept.”  Questiones Disputatae de Veritate, question 
4 in reply to 7th objection; 
5] [footnote 188: “The rationale of sign belongs by natural priority to an 
effect - before it belongs to a cause when the cause is related to the effect 
as its cause of being, but not when related to the effect as its cause of 
signifying. But when an effect has from its cause not only the fact of its 
existence, but also the fact of its existing as signifying, in that case, just 
as the cause is prior to the effect in being, so it is prior in signifying; and 
for this reason the interior word possesses a rationale of signification that 
is naturally prior to that of the exterior word.” Questiones Disputatae de 
Veritate, question 4, article1, adversus 7 (Bursa 3, p. 25); 
6] Deely: Perhaps even more intriguing is the lead Aquinas throws out in 
passing in the fourth of his Questiones Quodlibetales [footnote 189: 
Quodlibetun quartum, question 9, article 17 (Bursa 3, p. 461 col. 1: QDL n. 4, 
question 9, article 2c], when he distinguishes spoken words from what is 
understood by them: “the spoken word is a sign only and not what is signified; 
but what is understood is both sign and signified, as is also the thing.Ӧ 
7] Clearly, over the years, whatever he said in his doctoral dissertation 
[Deely p. 331, Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard [footnote 171: In 
quattuor libros sententia Petri Lombardi, distinction 1, question 9, article 1, 
quaestiunc. 2 ¶32 (Bursa 1, p. 417)], Aquinas moved far beyond a simple-minded 
contrast of a ‘literal’ to a ‘figurative’ or [page 336] ‘metaphorical’ use of 
the term ‘sign’ as it is applied to psychological states in contrast with overt 
behavioral manifestations of those states, and as it is applied in some 
generic, common sense to both. John Poinsot, the only classical Latin author to 
systematically study the writings of Aquinas from a semiotic point of view and 
to synthesize the results of that study in a formal Tractatus de Signis, 
resolved the schizophrenia we have pointed out by pointing out in turn that 
Aquinas himself never undertook to author a treatise on signs as such but 
contented himself with
 commenting on various aspects of the doctrine of signs as they impinged on 
various other concerns which Aquinas had taken as his thematic focus in this or 
that discussion.

You are receiving this message because you are subscribed to the PEIRCE-L 
listserv.  To remove yourself from this list, send a message to with the line "SIGNOFF PEIRCE-L" in the body of the 
message.  To post a message to the list, send it to PEIRCE-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU

Reply via email to