Systems of Interpretation • 2

Re: Peirce ListMike BergmanValentine Daniel

Let’s start as simply as possible.  The following Figure is typical of many I have used to illustrate sign relations from the time I first began studying Peirce’s theory of signs.

Elementary Sign Relation
\text{Figure 2. An Elementary Sign Relation}

The above variant comes from a paper Susan Awbrey and I presented at a conference in 1999, a revised version of which was published in 2001.

As the drafter of that drawing I can speak with authority about the artist’s intentions in drawing it and also about the conventions of interpretation forming the matrix of its conception and delivery.

Just by way of refreshing my own memory, here is how we set it up —

Figure 2 represents an “elementary sign relation”.  It is a single transaction taking place among three entities, the object o, the sign s, and the interpretant sign i, the association of which is typically represented by means of the ordered triple (o, s, i).

One of the interpretive conventions implied in that setup is hallowed by long tradition, going back to the earliest styles of presentation in mathematics.  In it one draws a figure intended as “representative” of many figures.  Regarded as a concrete drawing the figure is naturally imperfect, individual, peculiar, and special but it’s meant to be taken purely as a representative of its class — generic, ideal, and typical.  That is the main convention of interpretation which goes into giving diagrams and figures their significant power.


  • Awbrey, S.M., and Awbrey, J.L. (2001), “Conceptual Barriers to Creating Integrative Universities”, Organization : The Interdisciplinary Journal of Organization, Theory, and Society 8(2), Sage Publications, London, UK, 269–284.  AbstractOnline.
  • Awbrey, S.M., and Awbrey, J.L. (September 1999), “Organizations of Learning or Learning Organizations : The Challenge of Creating Integrative Universities for the Next Century”, Second International Conference of the Journal ‘Organization’, Re‑Organizing Knowledge, Trans‑Forming Institutions : Knowing, Knowledge, and the University in the 21st Century, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.  Online.
This entry was posted in C.S. Peirce, Diagrammatic Reasoning, Interpretive Frameworks, Logic, Logical Graphs, Objective Frameworks, Relation Theory, Semiotics, Sign Relations, Systems of Interpretation, Triadic Relations, Visualization and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Systems of Interpretation • 2

  1. Pingback: Survey of Semiotics, Semiosis, Sign Relations • 4 | Inquiry Into Inquiry

  2. Pingback: Systems of Interpretation • 3 | Inquiry Into Inquiry

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