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Comments to Semios-L

Katya Mandoki :
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 13:18:45 -0600

On Thu, 13 Jun 1996, Steven Skaggs wrote:
But there may be agreement
that it signifies, and that by signifying, it refers, and that reference
involves interpretation.

Well, at least we have something. But...

1> When I read '4' that's my interpretant.
2> The number on the screen was the representamen or sign vehicle.
3> Your thought was the object.
4> Your thought was itself an interpretant (of a preceding semiotic event).

This is where I begin to get lost: I see no difference between seeing a
4, reading a 4, thinking it's a 4, and interpreting it as a 4. Apart from
the anthropocentric approach, there can be no number on the screen
without it having been already read and thought as such. The only
difference I can make here is this little stick with a small triangle
hanging form its top "4" (sr) and its correspondence to **** (sd). I can
see no more, apart from the obvious condition "somebody" or even "something"
is making this relation. An animal smells something (sr) which it
interprets as the traces  of another animal (sd). For these two elements
to produce a sign event, another element, call it third, is sine qua non
to make the relation. The interpreter is more the corresponder, the one
who relates, who connects.

 How can we isolate "thought" which in
English is even worse because it does not distinguish between its sense
as "thinking" and what is "thought" implying both, the faculty and the
effect. And then
to say thought is the object proves my point about the ambiguity of the
term "object" both as "thing" and as object of thought. We must consider
that the whole idea behind this effort of unification is that an
ethnologist and biologist may easily understand the terminology without
having to pass specialized courses on peircian semiotics. If after all
you've read, worked upon and discussed Pierce, you still feel not
totally competent in peircian semiotics (I have exactly the same feeling,
after having been working for years on this) something must be wrong in
the way it is built. At least semantically. Peirce had great intuitions,
was very original, honest, hard thinking, but didn't know how to write
very well. Saussure didn't even write: he was interpreted.

> The lesson here is that objects are not 'real' (and certainly not
> necessarily physical), but are position markers in the semiosic chain.

Yes, this perspective of "position markers" in a process is right. But
again, if objects are signifieds, they are certainly real; maybe not
material, but real. Socially or individually real.

> Ok, maybe another word: 'notation' - as in denotation or connotation?
- any > suggestions?

 I think this is an improvement over "object", implying both (denot &
connot).  But why is it better than "signified"? And, thinking about it,
notation may be confused with the signifier mode. Although it refers to
note, notice, which is right, yet it could be confused with writing.

I noticed that Paul Rousseau also uses the signifier/signified
distinction with his students. So do I. That's a point for Saussure. He
" Again, my students need useful tools and I chose to present the idea that
a sign consists of a 'signifier' and the "signified".  I was able to work with
 this by using the clothes that my average student wears to class :
jeans, a tee-shirt and a baseball cap.  The signifier (the three objects
of clothes) signified the message "I belong to at group of 15 to 20 year
olds"  From this I was able to introduce the concepts of motivated and
constrained signs and so on."

> An interpretant is a state within a given sign event. An interpretation is
> produced 'through' sign action, not as the result of a sign as in S > I.

If you are talking about states and quantum mechanics, let's follow this
metaphor all along and say that signifier and signified are states in
which signs may be found (like wave or particle). The signifier, being
more stable, can be more closely related to the particle state, the
signified to the wave state. No. It doesn't work. Waves are not effects
of particles as signifieds are effects of signifiers. Pity. There is a
causal relation between Sr->Sd, whereas there is no such thing between
waves and particles. Or am I wrong? Hope I am...

We must have to abandon the anthropocentric termionolgy if we are to deal
with zoosemiosis and phytosemiosis. "thought" is purely anthropocentric.
Let's drop it.

 > >intepreters ...
> Interpreters themselves are 'states of belief'. I agree with you that there
> are interpreters, but your and my values about this are dependent upon sign
> action. So to say that interpreters produce signs (putting interpreters
> before signs) is, strictly speaking, invalid.
> >...produce signs qua signs.
> Do you mean realizing that we live in a semiotic world? No, Katya, I
> disagree. My retina responds semiotically, but without knowledge about what
> its doing.
I agree with your disagreement if that's what you understood. Let me
clarify: I didn't say we must be conscious that we are producing signs.

> I realize I draw the point finely here, but there is a crucial decision we
> all have to make: the price you pay for a triadic structure is complexity.
> The value is its ability to be applied across non-human and perhaps
> non-animate domains.

A model should be simple and deep, rather than complex and shallow. A
tryadic model is not necessarily complex. The point here is not whether
2, 3 or 4 are needed, but whether they really stand at the same level.
The formula Sr->sd is a tryad (sr, ->, sd) where "-)" corresponds to the

If this sounds reasonable, the peircian chain may be approached as
sr -> sd/sr ->sd meaning that any signified, can in turn function as
signifier. And here, wow, I think we may find what I lost two paragraphs
ago in the quantum metaphor: indeed there is an interchangeable sd/sr
state. Not in the sense that denies the sd as an effect of sr, but in the
sense that any specific sign may take the form of either sr or sd, that a
sd may be in turn sr in another relation.
And this model gets the dynamic dimension so explicit in Peirce (lacking in

Katya Mandoki

P.S. Yes, Steve, I just tried to contact Joe.

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