Sign Relations • Discussion 10

Re: CyberneticsKlaus KrippendorffBernard Scott
Re: OntologMihai NadinJohn SowaAlex Shkotin
Re: Peirce ListHelmut RaulienEdwina Taborsky

While engaged in a number of real and imaginary dialogues with people I continue to owe full replies, I thought it might be a good time to stand back and take in the view from this vantage point.  I summed up the desired outlook a few days ago in the following way.

The important thing now is to extend our perspective beyond one sign at a time and one object, sign, interpretant at a time to comprehending a sign relation as a specified set of object, sign, interpretant triples embedded in the set of all possible triples in a specified context.

If we now comprehend each sign relation L as an extended collection of triples (o, s, i), where each object o belongs to a set O of objects, each sign s belongs to a set S of signs, each interpretant i belongs to a set I of interpretants, and the whole sign relation L is embedded as a subset in the product space O \times S \times I, then our level of description ascends to the point where we take whole sign relations of this sort as the principal subjects of classification and structural analysis.

Once we adopt a whole systems perspective on sign relations we begin to see many commonplace topics in a fresh light.


That Peirce remodels his theory of semiosis from speaking of interpretive agents to speaking of interpretant signs is a familiar theme by now.  By way of reminder, we discussed this transformation recently in Discussion 4 and Discussion 5 of this series.

But we have to wonder:  Why does Peirce make this shift, this change of basis from interpreters to interpretants?  He does this because the idea of an interpreter stands in need of clarification and his method for clarifying ideas is to apply the pragmatic maxim.  The result is an operational definition of an interpreter in terms of its effects on signs in relation to their objects.

It would seem we have replaced an interpreter with a sign relation.  To be more precise, we are taking a sign relation as our effective model for the interpreter in question.  But we must not take this the wrong way.  There is no suggestion of reducing the hypostatic agent to a sign relation.  It falls within our capacity merely to clarify our concept of the agent to a moderate degree, to construct a model or a representation capturing aspects of the agent’s activity bearing on a particular application.

With that I’ve run out of time for today.  The topic for next time will be Context …


  • Peirce, C.S. (1902), “Parts of Carnegie Application” (L 75), in Carolyn Eisele (ed., 1976), The New Elements of Mathematics by Charles S. Peirce, vol. 4, 13–73.  Online.
  • Awbrey, J.L., and Awbrey, S.M. (1995), “Interpretation as Action : The Risk of Inquiry”, Inquiry : Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 15(1), pp. 40–52.  ArchiveJournalOnline.


cc: CyberneticsOntolog • Peirce List (1) (2)Structural ModelingSystems Science

This entry was posted in C.S. Peirce, Logic, Logic of Relatives, Mathematics, Peirce, Peirce's Categories, Philosophy, Pragmatic Semiotic Information, Pragmatism, Relation Theory, Semiotics, Sign Relations, Thirdness, Triadic Relations, Triadicity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sign Relations • Discussion 10

  1. Pingback: Survey of Semiotics, Semiosis, Sign Relations • 2 | Inquiry Into Inquiry

  2. Pingback: Survey of Semiotics, Semiosis, Sign Relations • 3 | Inquiry Into Inquiry

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