Earl Jackson, Jr.
Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914)
Son of famed mathmatician Benjamin Peirce. C. S. Peirce studied
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
One of the founders of Pragmatism, and a founder of Semiotics.
Read Kant when he was twelve years old. In studying the
An entire philosophy emerges from and through these categories.
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.“
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.“
Effort and resistance are two parts of a „double consciousness“
In sense and will reactions between ego and non-ego. In
„It is probably true that every element of experience
We perceive objects but experience events [CP 1.336]
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
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
The immediate object: the mental image of the object
In an Exchange between A and B, when A produces Sign1
and B understands it, that understanding is Sign2 the Interpretant
|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
12. Jezebel: Well, it’s not the Chinese character
1. „Pet“ is a sign that has a dynamic object [Gudrun’s
|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.
|Signs have firsts, seconds, and thirds.|
|The Sign in relation to itself|
|Signs in relation to Object|
Sign in relation to interpretant
|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
Writings. 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
. 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.
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.“
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
Earl Jackson, Jr.