RE: [xmca] signs and tools-for-thought: an analogy?

From: David Williamson Shaffer <dws who-is-at>
Date: Mon Sep 10 2007 - 07:03:44 PDT

Analogies are always dangerous, of course. (Wasn't it Kundera who said to be
careful of metaphors, because a single metaphor can give birth to love?)

In any event, in technical terms heat is not Brownian motion, but
temperature is. This from wikipedia, for example:

"The temperature of a system is defined as simply the average energy of
microscopic motions of a single particle in the system per degree of

(For those wondering, heat is the transfer of this energy from one body to

Tony is clearly more of a Peirce expert than I, but the idea of a
toolforthought is to suggest that thinking is, as he suggests, a tool
activity--where signs and physical objects are all tools, and therefore also
thoughts, and thinking is an emergent property of the inter-activity of
toolforthoughts. That is, as Katie and I suggest, toolforthoughts are the
cognitive instantiation of Latour's mutually mediating mediators.

Which also suggests at least part of why the idea is so unsettling. It is
awkward to conceive of our own experience as the product of a kind of
socio-cultural/intellectual Brownian motion.

I hope perhaps Jay Lemke and others who are more versed in actually physics
than I will weigh in too. Meanwhile, there is a little flash animation of
Brownian motion for those who think visually at


> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Tony Whitson
> Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2007 10:25 PM
> To:
> Subject: [xmca] signs and tools-for-thought: an analogy?
> In an earlier post, I repeated Peirce's view that thought is
> sign-activity, and asked, if signs are merely tools for thought, then what
> do we take thought, itself, to be?
> Reflecting on that, it occurs to me that it might be helpful to suggest
> this as an analogy:
> To say that signs are tools for thought, is rather like saying that
> molecules are tools for heat.
> To think of thought AS sign activity, is it helpful, as a lame analogy, to
> think of heat AS Brownian motion?
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> _______________________________
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
> _______________________________________________
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