Re: [xmca] Help With Peirce

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 11 2007 - 17:08:38 PDT

David, I kno from past experience that xmca has some real Peirce buffs, so
somone with better knowledge than me may step in. is my reading of Peirce by
the way, before I go to your question.
At 04:29 PM 11/10/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> My problem is with Peirce's idea of the "icon". It's firstness, so in
> Heglian terms, its the thing-in-itself. In Korean we say "keun-nyang", or
> "it's just that way".

Well know I don't think icon = thing-in-itself. It is a likeness or
representation. I am particularly enthusiastic about Peirce because he has,
I believe, a series of concepts which do *not* map on to Hegelian ones, but
are actually "additive". That is very unusual. So I combine Peirce's
icon/index/symbol with Hegelian individual/universal/particular, which I
think makes a pretty powerful tool (Oops, sorry it can't be a tool can it
because it's not material :) ) Peirce's other trichotomies of signs *do*
map on to Hegelian categories.

Where does that leave you, David?
> But of course if it were really JUST a thing-in-itself there would be
> no way to represent it in our consciousness. So even the percept we have
> is slightly indexical, else we could not understand it. For us to even
> see it, it must be at least a little bit "a thing for others" because we
> are the others.
> For example, if I look at one of eric's fiddle-shaped tables, I see
> only the surface of the table, and what is beneath the surface (is it
> wood or veneer?) and inside the legs (are they hollow or not?) I must
> represent it for myself.
> The surface points to what is beneath the surface and the legs point to
> what is inside the legs, but they do not show them iconically. So of
> course in firstness there is always secondness (at least insofar as
> firstness is represented in the human mind).
> Then of course there is the matter of the fiddle-shape, which is
> indexical in a very different way because it points to something which is
> well outside the object. It points to music in much the same way that
> Sasha's spoon points to the act of eating (not exactly the same, because
> we do not play music on a fiddle-shaped table).
> Clearly we are getting into the realm of symbolic meanings. So of
> course in secondness there is always thirdness (at least insofar as
> secondness is represented in human societies).
> But this is where my Buchler and Wiener mediated understanding of
> Peirce breaks down, and I need help. In the case of the plastic arts,
> there is another stage where the symbolic means of representing social
> meanings breaks free of social meanings.
> On Wednesday evenings when I stand in front of my easel in the art
> department, I often begin by smearing paint on the linen with a ruler (I
> really MUST buy a palette knife!). Only then do I work it into an image,
> and the result is not always an improvement. (My painting technique is
> pretty rudimentary; I wait for an aleatory effect and then try hard,
> usually not very successfully, not to destroy it while I create
> deliberate effects.)
> My colleague, Professor Han, practices calligraphy. But he stopped
> representing actual readable text long ago: most days he simply produces
> firstnesses, and only occasionally can you find in his work the
> representation of part of a Korean vowel or a single, sub-symbolic
> portion of a Chinese character.
> For both of us, the paint appears to look better when it has broken
> free of all attempts to represent or indicate and has reverted to
> something very like a thing-in-itself. (I don't particularly like pretty
> pictures, and the linguist in me forces me to keep working, but Professor
> Han is a real artist, and he stops without destroying his aleatory effects.)
> The music we listen to while we paint seems to me to work in the same
> way: sometimes, of course, there are intelligible words. (I like opera,
> but the students prefer Korean hip-hop music.) But for the most part it
> is sound that has broken free of its representative functions and
> reverted to a thing-in-itself.
> Of course it is possible to attach INDIVIDUAL meanings to these things,
> just as we do when we are forced to "interpret" a Rorshach ink blot or
> say what we are thinking when we listen to music. But whether this is a
> genuine "meaning" or not, and whether this type of data can be said to be
> "gathered" rather than manufactured (like Wundt's think-aloud protocols
> that LSV rejected), it does not alter the case: the paint and the music
> is, to all appearances, "keun-nyang"; it just is.
> But the way it just is cannot be found in nature. No matter how
> "abstract" a sunset looks, it is not composed of symbolic materials in
> the way that the smear of paint and the pattern of music is, so it is
> impossible to think of the sunset as a REFUSAL to mean.
> Clearly, some kind of PLAY is going on in here; we admit this when we
> say that we have the means to mean things without the meanings. Clearly,
> it's relevant to some of my classroom data, where kids are producing
> sounds that sound VAGUELY like foreign language sounds but which are
> ostentatiously NOT foreign language sounds and are producing movements
> which LOOK purposive but which are clearly NOT (some of them are amazing
> pencil spinners already, though they have only very rudimentary handwriting).
> What would Peirce say? Is this firstness...or fourthness?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
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Received on Thu Oct 11 17:11 PDT 2007

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