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Re: [ontolog-forum] Triadic Sign Relations

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2010 21:25:16 -0400
Message-id: <4C69E4FC.8020308@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rich,    (01)

I'll try to clarify some of these issues.    (02)

> 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.    (03)

The interpretant of a sign is always a sign.  It is never nil.    (04)

(Of course, one might have a sign 'nil' that is intended to stand
for nothing, but the sign 'nil' itself is not nil.)    (05)

 > Money can have a lot of different TYPEs of interpretants, I suppose?
 > ...
 > Does that mean money has many, many interpretants over the set
 > of all interpretER’s dreams of acquisition?    (06)

*Everything* and anything can be interpreted in a huge number of
different ways.  Money happens to be extremely complex.  To illustrate
the basic points, I'd like to start with something much simpler.    (07)

To start, I'll mention the most fundamental triad that applies
to every sign of every kind:    (08)

    mark, token, and type.    (09)

Peirce's type/token distinction is widely recognized, but those are
just the second and third members of a triad.    (010)

For the first member, Peirce use the term 'tone' or 'mark', which could
be applied to anything perceptible -- a sound, some visual snippet,
some smell, some touch, or whatever.  The mark or tone is a potential
sign *before* anybody interprets it.    (011)

For example, a galaxy that formed in the early universe was a mark
or potential sign, even though the universe at that time had no
sentient beings that could interpret it.  But today, some astronomers
can see the effects of that mark and interpret them as a token of
type galaxy.    (012)

As another example, if I look at the books that Google scanned in, I
see lots of marks.  Some of those marks are letters and other symbols
that the author and printer intended to convey some specific meaning.
But others are just random scratches or blotches that the books
acquired over years of use, abuse, and decay.    (013)

If I look at some mark, such as 'szczotka', I can interpret it as
a token of type "character string", which is composed of 8 marks,
each of which is a token of some letter of the Roman alphabet.    (014)

If I don't recognize that character string as a word in any
particular language, that is as far as I can go to interpret it.
But if I happen to know some Polish, I might guess that the author
had intended it to be a token of the Polish word for 'brush'.    (015)

If I happen to know the pronunciation, I would note that the
combination 'szcz' in Polish is pronounced like 'sh-ch' in English.
Therefore, the pronunciation of the word 'szczotka' would resemble
the sound of somebody scrubbing something with a brush.    (016)

Therefore, that sound, by itself, would be a mark or tone before
anyone interpreted it.  Somebody who knows Polish would be likely
to interpret it as a token of the spoken word 'szczotka'.  But
somebody who did not know Polish might interpret it as a sound
that somebody was using to imitate the sound of a brush.    (017)

 > Or do you contend that the interpretANT of money is money ITSELF?    (018)

I have no idea what you (or anybody else) might mean by "money itself."
In fact, I'm not sure what you mean by 'money'.  Are you talking about
the word or about something that word is used to refer to?  And what,
exactly, does the word 'money' refer to?    (019)

When you use the word 'money', what are you talking about?  Some coin?
Some piece of paper?  Some collection of coins and pieces of paper?
Do those coins and pieces of paper have to be issued by some government
agency?  What if they are a mixture from various governments?  Are
they still considered money?    (020)

Or are you talking about some abstract sum of money, which is obtained
by adding the values of all the coins and pieces of paper?    (021)

Suppose somebody had a coin collection with one ruble coin issued by
the old Russian Empire in 1900, another ruble issued by the Soviet Union
in 1975, and a third ruble issued by the Russian government in 2005.
Would you say that they had 3 rubles?  If you did, it wouldn't be
the same sense as somebody who intended to buy or sell something
for 3 rubles.    (022)

I'm not saying that you have to think about all these issues
consciously whenever you talk.  But these are distinctions that you
know and observe in your daily life.  And if you want to design a
computer system that can read documents, interpret them the way
people do, and reason about what they say, it will require a
semiotic system that can make such distinctions as needed.    (023)

That is why Peirce analyzed and classified all these ways of using
signs.  His system provides the distinctions, pigeon holes, and
terminology for talking about and reasoning about them all.    (024)

For more background about Peirce's achievements, I suggest:    (025)

    Peirce's contributions to the 21st century    (026)

John    (027)

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