RC wrote: "So a
familiar sign S represents another sign S2 in one agent’s mind, yet can
represent only S itself in another agent’s mind, while simultaneously
representing S3 (money, a document …) to still another agent?"
ASHA: A sign points out
to something else, while a symbol takes place and stands for something else.The
nature of meaning relationship (or signification) lies in the sorts of things
acting as signs (or symbols) and the sorts of things to be referred (signified).
RC] I like the simplicity of that concept,
but CSP, JFS and JA all claim that a sign can stand for ITSELF, i.e., the “interpretant”
of a sign CAN be ITSELF, or it CAN be another sign, or it can be nothing, nada,
zip, null, or nil. I GUESS that means the interpretant of a sign with nil interpretant must
actually be MISINTERPRETED to be itself. I think a sign with ITSELF as its own interpretant
would necessarily be an infinitely recurring circle unless controlled in depth
by the interpretER.
ASHA: The power of words,
used by human minds, is in the double capacity to point out and stand for
another thing. Again, there are verbal symbols and nonverbal symbols, as vocal
signs and nonvocal signs. Among the nonverbal symbols are money, ceremonies,
seals, titles, etc.
RC] Money can have a lot of different TYPEs of
interpretants, I suppose? Seals, titles, and various other forms are less
flexible than money, so let me first explore the way in which money can have
The many interpretants of money must be
selected by each InterpretER based on the associated markets and the
instantaneous value system of the InterpretER. With an exchange as flexible as today’s
various money based trading system, money indexes a lot of desireable things. Does
that mean money has many, many interpretants over the set of all interpretER’s dreams of
Or do you contend that the interpretANT of
money is money ITSELF? That position leaves any concept of “fungability”
completely up to the InterpretER, but generally all InterpretERs agree that more money
is better than less money, therefore leaving the interpretant of money
unrepresented in any objective sense, but known to be ordered by value.
RC] Likewise, documents can have interpretANTs to themselves,
which I certainly DON’T UNDERSTAND as desireable, or to the things they
describe, but that description is based on the mind of the interpretER who read the document. It
makes me think of a book which, when read, states “this book is a book”
in a circularity that is doomed to eternal recursion by an obsessive-compulsive
interpretER. As a
representation of true meaning,
that is a lot hard to swallow.
has not been introduced yet in the sequence of definitions of this Peircean exploration.
Which is another point: do Peirceans even believe in objectivity? All
InterpretERs would have
to file the same InterpretANT
for any objective Sign to qualify, but what if they erred, and the Sign doesn’t
mean what they think it means – consider the physicists who preached “ether”
in the 19th century as what light travels through before AE proved
that there was no need even for ether?
interesting aspect of your answer is that you use the word “thing”
as the most general of all thingish words like object, plurality, stuff,
material …; is that your mental image of the word “thing”, as
the most abstract of all objects?
ASHA: Yes, Thing refers
to the Universal Class ofall sorts of entities, implying the universal property
of all entities, whereas Nothing refers to the Null Class .
RC] That sounds very reasonable and well reasoned.
RC: Can a
“thing” include an action, method, plan, history of the
ASHA: In the broad sense,
it is a substance, state, change, process as far as " every sign is also a
thing, for what is not a thing is nothing at all".
RC] Then either we have to enumerate all
possible things (which is feasible only in small universes for most
applications) or we have to enumerate groups which together, enumerate all
things in some form of closure. In either case we ultimately have to enumerate
all Things (and perhaps many or all groups in the lattice above those Things)
if we want to represent them. The enumeration of all Thing instances is
therefore potentially a management issue of major considerations. Yet I never
hear of any enumeration, ordering, comparison, or identification methods from
the Peirceans. I wonder what methods they use to deal with large universes of
Things, such as the seven billion humans on the planet. I suppose a sparse
representation is the easiest.
In NL, words are the
signs of ideas and images, thoughts and feelings, while the mental
signs are the similitudes of things.
The beauty of machines
consists in that they don't require the mental signs (ideas and images) as
the medium whereby symbols (physical signals) could signify the real things.
RC] Yes, and that is very well stated,
thank you for the effort you must have put into that email!
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 16,
2010 12:20 AM
[ontolog-forum] Triadic Sign Relations
"That confuses me no end if Peirceans can’t
tie the theory to some commonly understood reality for me. Is there a
more fruitful description that explains the language used and chosen for that
The nature of signs and symbols and significations,
their definition, elements, and types, was mainly established by Aristotle,
Augustine, and Aquinas.
According to these classic sources, significance is a
relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they
signify (intend, express or mean), where one term necessarily causes something
else to come to the mind. Distinguishing natural signs and conventional signs,
the traditional theory of signs sets the following threefold partition of
- There are things that
are just things, not any sign at all;
- There are things that
are also signs of other things (as natural signs of the physical world and
mental signs of the mind);
- There are things that
are always signs, as languages (natural and artificial) and other cultural
nonverbal symbols, as documents, money, ceremonies, and rites. see a brief
but comprehensive account, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sign
Thanks for your view on this; it helps me
compare and contrast my own theoretical understanding with yours.
So a familiar sign S represents another
sign S2 in one agent’s mind, yet can represent only S itself in another
agent’s mind, while simultaneously representing S3 (money, a document
…) to still another agent?
Another interesting aspect of your answer
is that you use the word “thing” as the most general of all
thingish words like object, plurality, stuff, material …; is that your mental
image of the word “thing”, as the most abstract of all objects?
Can a “thing” include an
action, method, plan, history of the foregoing?
Thanks for the stimulating viewpoint,
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
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