Charles Sanders Peirce - Philosophy: Logic, or Semiotic - Signs - Sign Relation

Anything is a sign — not absolutely as itself, but instead in some relation or other. The sign relation is the key. It defines three roles encompassing (1) the sign, (2) the sign's subject matter, called its object, and (3) the sign's meaning or ramification as formed into a kind of effect called its interpretant (a further sign, for example a translation). It is an irreducible triadic relation, according to Peirce. The roles are distinct even when the things that fill those roles are not. The roles are but three; a sign of an object leads to one or more interpretants, and, as signs, they lead to further interpretants.

Extension × intension = information. Two traditional approaches to sign relation, necessary though insufficient, are the way of extension (a sign's objects, also called breadth, denotation, or application) and the way of intension (the objects' characteristics, qualities, attributes referenced by the sign, also called depth, comprehension, significance, or connotation). Peirce adds a third, the way of information, including change of information, to integrate the other two approaches into a unified whole. For example, because of the equation above, if a term's total amount of information stays the same, then the more that the term 'intends' or signifies about objects, the fewer are the objects to which the term 'extends' or applies.

Determination. A sign depends on its object in such a way as to represent its object — the object enables and, in a sense, determines the sign. A physically causal sense of this stands out when a sign consists in an indicative reaction. The interpretant depends likewise on both the sign and the object — an object determines a sign to determine an interpretant. But this determination is not a succession of dyadic events, like a row of toppling dominoes; sign determination is triadic. For example, an interpretant does not merely represent something which represented an object; instead an interpretant represents something as a sign representing the object. The object (be it a quality or fact or law or even fictional) determines the sign to an interpretant through one's collateral experience with the object, in which the object is found or from which it is recalled, as when a sign consists in a chance semblance of an absent object. Peirce used the word "determine" not in a strictly deterministic sense, but in a sense of "specializes," bestimmt, involving variable amount, like an influence. Peirce came to define representation and interpretation in terms of (triadic) determination. The object determines the sign to determine another sign — the interpretant — to be related to the object as the sign is related to the object, hence the interpretant, fulfilling its function as sign of the object, determines a further interpretant sign. The process is logically structured to perpetuate itself, and is definitive of sign, object, and interpretant in general.

Read more about this topic:  Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosophy: Logic, or Semiotic, Signs

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Semiotic Elements And Classes Of Signs - Semiotic Elements - Sign Relation
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