[Index] [Prev] [Next]

Comments to Semios-L

Katya Mandoki :
Wed, 12 Jun 1996 22:00:55 -0600

On Wed, 12 Jun 1996, Steven Skaggs wrote:
> I certainly don't want to propogate the idea that I'm a big Peirce
> but my understanding of Peirce is that he spent his life mediating, in a
> sense, between nominalism and realism. Along Peircian lines, you don't want
> to set up these 'physical-mental' bifurcations, because what he sees as the
> real virtue of signs is that they are at a deeper level than either
> physical or mental. For Peirce, the mediational relation (Thirdness) in
> which semiosis is situated, is the only place in which 'knowing' happens.

If we could really go by and not get muddled by having to define an apriori
position (realist/nominalist) from which to deal with semiosis, that would
be a major step. But I am afraid that Peirce was closer to realism than to
nominalism. Otherwise, why the need of including the "object" and making
it into a  tryad?
Saussure was clearly a nominalist. This is where our troubles began. So
if we would leave the "object" on the side for a while, perhaps we could
concentrate in resemblances only.

Allow me to add other terms to Eco's:

representamen         /        interpretant (Peirce)
signifier             /       signified, mental image,  concept (Saussure)
sign vehicle          /        designatum (Morris)

I agree "representamen" is not a good choice.
For practical reasons, Saussure's terminology seems in this particular
case, the simplest. No ambiguities in confusing sign and signifier and
yet is realted. It implies signifier as an agency . It is terminologically
and  nemotecnically linked to signified as belonging to each other, it can
respond with no pressure to Peirce's  " a sign is something (signifier)
which stands to somebody  for something (signified) in some aspect
or capacity".

We need here a change of the anthropocentric "somebody", but apart from
that, it sounds right.
The problem comes in the next phrase: "it addresses somebody, that is,
creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more
developed sign." Here I find a realist position. Signs addressing people,
making things in people. And then, the "perhaps" (??)

Going back, the first elementary definition can be said to be common to
both: a sign is an event in which a signifier  stands for a signified,
not in itself, but always in relation to an intepreter (human, animal,
vegetal, physiological, molecular).

Quoting Steve:
You could say: > a sign is an event in
which a VEHICLE stands for its OBJECT while producing > an INTERPRETANT. >

The problem I see in this terminology is "object" , apart from conflating
what Morris distinguishes so well (Designatum and denotatum), can be
understood as objective, target. And "vehicle" for similar reasons (may
be understood as keeping within, or carrying in (Lakoff's conduit metaphor).
Also, I disagree signs produce an interpretant. It is the other way around:
intepreters produce signs qua signs.

Steve continues:
> This is not very different from the essential nature of experimental >
science in which: > an experiment is an event in which a OBSERVATION
stands for its OBJECT > while producing a RESULT.

I disagree, Steve. This won't take us far. Why "observation" instead of
"formulation"? What if there are no results? What is an OBJECT except an
"observed", (thus signified) rather than referent?

I'll take a look at Scarfatti and Stapp's again. Hope you're right, and
that the work is done. Doubt it...

Katya Mandoki

[Index] [Prev] [Next]

Comments to Semios-L