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Re: [ontolog-forum] Triadic Sign Relations

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2010 03:29:53 -0700
Message-id: <20100817102958.DB5EB138CD0@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>



Quoting from Jon Awbrey's passage 18 of Peirce as posted:


Let us now return to the information. The information of a term is the measure of its superfluous comprehension. That is to say that the proper office of the comprehension is to determine the extension of the term. For instance, you and I are men because we possess those attributes — having two legs, being rational, &c. — which make up the comprehension of man. Every addition to the comprehension of a term lessens its extension up to a certain point, after that further additions increase the information instead.


(Peirce 1866, Lowell Lecture 7, CE 1, 466–467).


I interpret “comprehension” in this passage as referring to the degree of specialization of a “term”, or symbol.  The more specialized a Thing is, with more predicates that have to be true of its properties and methods, the less general that Thing is.  CSP seems to be saying that the more specialized a Thing is, the more “information” it’s designation contains to ensure disambiguation from other Things. 


Isn’t that increasing the information required to detect a Thing which meets the specialization constraints?  What is that “certain point” which CSP eulogizes?  Does it have to do with an unambiguous designation among the Things of the Universe of discourse?  Beyond disambiguating, a designation only adds information?  Or is there a different interpretant which CSP intended to designate?






Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2


-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
Sent: Monday, August 16, 2010 6:25 PM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Triadic Sign Relations




I'll try to clarify some of these issues.


> 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.


The interpretant of a sign is always a sign.  It is never nil.


(Of course, one might have a sign 'nil' that is intended to stand

for nothing, but the sign 'nil' itself is not nil.)


 > 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?


*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.


To start, I'll mention the most fundamental triad that applies

to every sign of every kind:


    mark, token, and type.


Peirce's type/token distinction is widely recognized, but those are

just the second and third members of a triad.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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'.


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.


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.


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


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?


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?


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?


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.


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.


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.


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



    Peirce's contributions to the 21st century





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