Peirce’s 1903 Lowell Lectures • Comment 9

Re: Peirce ListJohn Sowa

In 1911, Peirce clarified [the] issues by using two distinct terms:  ‘the universe’ and ‘a sheet of paper’.  The sheet is no longer identified with the universe, and there is no reason why one couldn’t or shouldn’t shade a blank area of a sheet.

Extracting the moral John Sowa draws from Peirce, there is a difference between being a universe of discourse and representing a universe of discourse.

  • On the one hand we have an initial universe of discourse X.  This provides the basis for a prospective object domain O to be constructed out of its elements as our description of the universe develops.
  • On the other hand we have the various systems of signs that we use to represent aspects of the universe of discourse X.  These go to make up whatever sign domain S and interpretant domain I are needed for the ongoing discussion and inquiry.

With logic as formal semiotics and semiotics as the study of triadic sign relations, properly understanding how Peirce’s graphical symbol systems manage to represent universes of discourse requires us to consider the larger contexts of triadic sign relations in which they play their role.


cc: Peirce List

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