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Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking for a Razor and Triangles and Meanings

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Jon Awbrey <jawbrey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 15:00:31 -0400
Message-id: <4C7BFFCF.10905@xxxxxxx>
Re: Looking for a Razor and Triangles and Meanings,  By: Sean Barker
At: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2010-08/msg00236.html    (01)

SB: The earlier thread on Peirce, and the fact that in the triad
     (sign, object, interpretant) are signs, suggested an approach
     to the infinite regress of signs.  Every interpretant must have
     an interpreter (a pseudo-mind), and in practice we do not need
     to follow an infinite regression of interpreters.  Rather, we
     can stop when we find an interpreter that acts directly on the
     sign.  For example, if we have a system of signs in logic, the
     appropriate pseudo mind is a reasoner, which will answer whether
     a particular proposition is true or false (or not determinable,
     or not yet determined...).  I do not need to understand the
     regression of signs through the mechanisms that the reasoner
     uses, whether it be a computer or human, as long as it produces
     an answer.  Obviously there are people who will wish to follow
     this regression as a means of improving the performance of the
     reasoner or validating that it works correctly, but my business
     is at the level of business, not the detailed mechanisms that it
     uses to do business.    (02)

I've never understood this business about the "infinite regress"
of signs.  I remember that it was much ado-ed on the Peirce List
during my sometime visits there.  To the best of my recollection,
it had to do with possible adaptations and/or mis-interpretations
by Umberto Eco.  Here's a fragment of discussion that I copied to
what was then the "Arisbe-Dev List":    (03)

http://stderr.org/pipermail/arisbe/2005-November/thread.html#3152    (04)

In the passage that I do recall from Peirce, his words were more
exactly these:    (05)

| A sign stands ''for'' something ''to'' the idea which it produces,
| or modifies.  Or, it is a vehicle conveying into the mind something
| from without.  That for which it stands is called its ''object'';
| that which it conveys, its ''meaning'';  and the idea to which it
| gives rise, its ''interpretant''.  The object of representation can
| be nothing but a representation of which the first representation is
| the interpretant.  But an endless series of representations, each
| representing the one behind it, may be conceived to have an absolute
| object at its limit.  The meaning of a representation can be nothing
| but a representation.  In fact, it is nothing but the representation
| itself conceived as stripped of irrelevant clothing.  But this clothing
| never can be completely stripped off;  it is only changed for something
| more diaphanous.  So there is an infinite regression here.  Finally,
| the interpretant is nothing but another representation to which the
| torch of truth is handed along;  and as representation, it has its
| interpretant again.  Lo, another infinite series.
| C.S. Peirce, Collected Papers, CP 1.339, from an unidentified fragment, n.d.
| Online copy @ http://www.helsinki.fi/science/commens/terms/interpretant.html    (06)

Perhaps a bit too diaphanous.  Then again, it comes from an unpublished 
so extra charity is due to him, if we would have it for our own Nachlassting 
The phrases "infinite regression" and "infinite series" both occur here, but 
in the context of pointing out that "an endless series of representations, each
representing the one behind it, may be conceived to have an absolute object at
its limit".  Peirce knows all about recursive definitions and the conditions
for the convergence of infinite series, so his use of "infinite regression"
does not entail the bad sense of a logical absurdity or undefined concept.    (07)

Jon Awbrey    (08)

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