LIT 101

and Psychoanalysis


Earl Jackson, Jr.


Fall 2002




Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914)

Son of famed mathmatician Benjamin Peirce. C. S. Peirce studied
Chemistry and mathematics at Harvard. 

1859-1891 Scientist for  U. S. Coast and Geodetic

1879-1884. Taught Logic at  Johns Hopkins University.

1891-1914. No steady employment. Lived in poverty doing
odd freelance jobs in Milford Pennsylvania.

One of the founders of Pragmatism, and a founder of Semiotics.

Read Kant when he was twelve years old. In studying the
categories of Aristotle and Kant, Peirce was inspired to come up with his
own categories which he did. They are simply




An entire philosophy emerges from and through these categories.
His semiotics is thoroughly condition by the categories as well.




Peirceís Categories.

Firstness.  Feeling

 A feeling or pure sensation that is itself alone.
Really only in potentia. A feeling. „an instance of that kind of consciousness
which involves no analysis, comparison or any process whatsoever, nor consists
in whole or in part of any act by which one stretch of consciousness is
distinguished from another, which has its own positive quality which consists
of nothing else, and which is of itself all that it is, however it may
have been brought about; so that if this feeling is present during a lapse
of time, it is wholly and equally present at every moment of that time.
. . . By a feeling I mean an instance of that sort of element of consciousness
which is all that it is positively, in itself, regardless of anything else.“
[CP 1.306].

Secondness Struggle

Standing on the outside of a door that is slightly ajar,
you put your hand on the knob to open and enter it. You experience an unseen,
silent resistance. . . . Effort supposes resistance. . . . Effort is a
phenomenon which only arises when one feeling abuts upon another in time.“
[CP 1.320] 

Effort and resistance are two parts of a „double consciousness“
? an awareness of self and the not-self. The waking state is a consciousness
of reaction [which itself] has two varieties: action, where our modification
of other things is more prominent than their reaction on us, and perception,
where their effect on us is overwhelmingly greater than our effect on them“
[CP 1. 324]

In sense and will reactions between ego and non-ego. In
will, the events leading up to the act are internal ? we are the agent;
in sense, the antecedent events are not within us; and besides, the object
of which we form a perception . . . remains unaffected. Consequently we
are patients.“ [CP 1.325]

 „It is probably true that every element of experience
is in the first instance applied to an external object. A man who gets
up out of the wrong side of the bed, for example, attributes wrongness
to almost every object he perceives. That is the way he experiences his
bad temper.“ He cannot perceive his bad temper [CP 1.335.]

 We perceive objects but experience events [CP 1.336]
It is the compulsion, the absolute constraint upon us to think otherwise
than we have been thinking that constitutes experience. . . . There must
be an element of effort in experience. . . . [CP 1.336]. 


Thirdness. Mediation

That which connects firsts and seconds. A law, a principle.

 An important third  is a sign or representation.


Charles Sanders Peirce on the sign:

„A sign, or a representamen, is something which stands
to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody,
that is, in creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps
a more developed sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant
of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object. It stands
for that object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea,
which I have sometimes called the ground of representation.“ [C.P.


Peircean Terminology

Sign (or representamen) : Anything that is used
to stand for or represent something other than itself. A word, a picture,
a gesture, an object, are all used as signs.

Ground: The context and system in which the circulation
of signs occurs. The ground is what conditions the way in which a sign
is understood, the way it stimulates an interpretant.


The sign has two kinds of object:

The dynamic object – the „real“ object which the
sign represents.

The immediate object: the mental image of the object
that the sign stimulates – in other words, the object as it is represented
by and known through the sign.


In an Exchange between A and B, when A produces Sign1
and B understands it, that understanding is Sign2 the Interpretant
of Sign1.
Semiosis. „An action, or influence, which is,
or which involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its
object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in
any way resolvable into actions between pairs.“ C.P. 5.484.
[Note from Earl: In this definition of semiosis,
Peirce uses the word „subject“ very differently from what we will usually
mean by the term. I would replace „subject“ with „element“ in this definition
to make it clearer and to avoid confusion within our terminology

Example: A conversation between two imaginary
graduate students in linguistics. Gudrun grew up on a large farm in Belize.
Jezebel has spent her life entirely in large cities.

1. Gudrun: I have a pet.

2. Jezebel: What kind?

3. Gudrun: A dog.

4. Jezebel: What kind?

5. Gudrun: An Inca Crested.

6. Jezebel: A what?

7. Gudrun: Here, I’ll show you a picture.

8. Jezebel: That’s a dog?

9. Gudrun: Yep. That’s what it says on his T-shirt

10. Jezebel: Really? I don’t know that character.

11. Gudrun: Really? That’s the Japanese character
for dog.

12. Jezebel: Well, it’s not the Chinese character
for dog.

 Analysis of

1. „Pet“ is a sign that has a dynamic object [Gudrun’s
actual pet] and an immediate object [the meanings that the sign „pet“ can
convey.] Jezebel understands what Gudrun means because of the ground of
the sign, namely twentieth-century colloquial English. Understanding the
sentence has generated a new interpretant for the sign „pet,“ namely the
range of possible companion animals that the sign includes for Jezebel.
That range is the immediate object of this interpretant „pet“. Since Jezebel
has always lived in apartments in cities, and Gudrun grew up on a farm
in a country that is  rich and varied in wild life and also concerned
with nature conservation, the range of companion animals in Gudrun’s experience
is much broader than Jezebel’s. Therefore, although the two share the sign
„pet“ the immediate object of the sign for each of them is very different.


In 2. and 4. Jezebel asks the same question:
What kind?  The point of 2 is to narrow down the range of possibilities
encompassed by the immediate object of the sign „pet“. And „dog“ does this,
but again this sign will have significantly different immediate object
for Gudrun and Jezebel. 
The answer to 5, has no immediate object for Jezebel,
since „Inca Crested“ is not an animal that is included in the immediate
object of the sign „dog“ for her.

From 8. we see that even the physical appearance
of an inca crested is outside of what the sign „dog“ includes for Jezebel.
From 9. we find that there is another sign in
the picture that for Gudrun means „dog,“ but not for Jezebel. 
From 10-12 we see why: no common ground – the
ground for reading that character to mean „dog“ is the Japanese writing
system. Jezebel reads Chinese, but that system uses a different character
to signify the category „dog.“ We will come back to this later.

After seeing the picture of Gudrun’s dog, Jezebel’s concept
of the range of physical types of dog has been extended, which means the
immediate object of „dog“ has changed for her, and her habit of interpreting
the sign „dog“ has also changed. 


Peirce’s Trichotomy of Signs
Signs have firsts, seconds, and thirds.
The Sign in relation to itself



Signs in relation to Object



Sign in relation to interpretant





Three Types of Interpretants
Emotional. The feeling produced by a sign. A piece
of music often generates an emotional interpretant. C.P. 5.475
Energetic. Involves effort – either physical or
Logical. A habit-change. A modification of consciousness.


Works by Peirce

The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce,
Vols. I-VI. Ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1931-1935)

Charles Sanders Pierce, „What is a Sign?“ (1894) [CP 2.281,
285, and 297-302.] rpt. in The Essential Peirce. Selected Philosophical
. Vol 2. (1893-1913). Ed. The Peirce Edition Project.
(Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP 1998): 4-10.

Charles Sanders Pierce, „Logic as Semiotic: The Theory
of Signs.“ in Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Ed. Justus Buchler
[1940]. Rpt. (New York: Dover, 1955.): 98-119.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. (1931-1935). „Division of Signs,“
Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce
, Vols. I-VI. Ed. Charles Hartshorne
and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Works on Pierce

Goudge, Thomas. (1950). The Thought of C. S. Peirce.
New York: Dover Publications

Eco, Umberto, „Peirceís Notion of Interpretant.“ MLN
91.6 (Dec 1976): 1457-1472.

Tejera, Victorino. „Has Eco Understood Peirce?“, The
American Journal of Semiotics
6.2/3 (1989), 251-264.

Internet Resources

Peirce Project


The Peirce Gateway


Peirce Edition Project


of the Charles S. Peirce Society.


See Peirce, „What
is a Sign

See Joseph Ransdell, „On
the Paradigm of Experience Appropriate to Semiotic

See Lucia Santaella, „Peirce’s
Three Catagories and Lacan’s Three Registers of the Human Condition

See Jay Zeman, „Peirce’s
Theory of Signs

Helmut Pape. „Charles S. Peirce on Objects of Thought
and Representation.“ Nous. Vol.24.No. 3 (June 1990): 375-395

See  course Joseph F. Esposito’s online course,
Theory of Semiosis:Toward A Logic of Mutual Affection
Refer to: 

Eighty-eight definitions
of a sign
.  [Compiled from quotations from Peirce’s work.]
See our Catalogue
of Internet Resources for Semiotics
To an Introduction
to Ferdinand de Saussure
To Study Guide

LIT 101

and Psychoanalysis


Earl Jackson, Jr.


Fall 2002