Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Sun Sep 09 2007 - 17:57:04 PDT


While your major point is well-taken and well-expressed, and I love your
example, I would quibble, perhaps, to argue for a more Peicean postion.

In what sense can we say that "Lateness of spring" is something "natural"
(as opposed to what, exactly?)?

"Lateness of spring" signifies (yes, it already signfies, so it is itself
a sign already, prior to being an object in subsequent semiosis) deviation
from a norm; and a norm itself, in Peirce's view, is already thirdness.

Snow is related to "lateness of spring" not only dyadically (secondness)
through the series of dyadic cause/effect relations in the dymamics of
nature, but also triadically, by virtue of the virtual (whether realized
or not) potential of the snow being interpreted as a sign of late spring,
whether in an interpretant produced by a human or one produced by a
flowering plant (a triadic relation in the semiosics of nature--including
humans as participants in the natural world--but already happening before
humans arrive on the scene). This semiosic potential by virtue of which
the snow is semiosically, not just dynamically, in triadic relation with
the lateness and the possible interpretants is a logical consequence
(Peirce was a logician, who considered "semiotics" to be "logic in
general") of how the world itself (as a "perfusion of signs") is
constituted in webs and networks of such triadic relations.

For Peirce, voluntary human action is not criterial for signs or semiosis,
although it is a form of sign activity marked by a degree of thirdness
that's exceptional within the world we know, but which is not divided
between natural and human.

On Sun, 9 Sep 2007, David Kellogg wrote:

> Andy:
> If we reject the claim that nature is dialectical (in a non-trivial sense, in the same sense that human semiosis is dialogical), I have trouble making sense of Volosinov's description of how signs come into being. It seems to me that signs come into being precisely by human selection and voluntary reproduction of something pre-existing in nature.
> Volosinov describes two people in a room. Outside the it begins to snow. One of them says, "Well!"
> When we apply Peirce's (profoundly dialectical) notion of signs to the colloquy, we get:
> Sign: Snow
> Object: Lateness of spring
> Interpretant: Disappointment
> The first two things are clearly natural: snow means that spring will probably be late whether anyone notices it or not (any grizzly bear will tell you that). So I still think that human dialectics is a deliberate, volitional, selective reflection of a "natural dialectic" in the thinking, speaking, human subject.
> It seems to me that if we reject this continuity of natural semiosis into human semiosis, we end up rejecting either materialism (as Hegel did) or monism. No?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul Ntional University of Education
> ---------------------------------
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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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Received on Sun Sep 9 18:05 PDT 2007

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