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[Xmca-l] Re: The Stuff of Words

The reason why I picked out icon/index/symbol of all the many firstness/secondness/thirdnesses Peirce offers us is that all the rest are found in Hegel and systematically elaborated there. But not icon/index/symbol. As you know Greg I am not one of those that think that The Phenomenology is the only book Hegel wrote, so I will refer you to the Science of Logic, chapter on the Concept (a.k.a. Notion).


Andy Blunden
On 8/05/2017 12:12 PM, Greg Thompson wrote:
Andy (and others),

I agree that Peirce seems a good complement to Hegel.

One interesting bit where there seems to be some overlap is in Hegel's interest in what Silverstein calls, using Peircean language, "referential indexicals" (these are signs which have referential value but their referential value is primarily indexical - pronouns are a classic example, but see my next sentence for more examples). I can't recall where I saw this in Hegel's writing but it seems like he has a bit somewhere on "Here, This, Now" (as translated). Do you recall where this is? Or what Hegel is "up to" in that section? I've always wondered.

As mentioned above, Silverstein makes quite a bit of the importance of referential indexicals in everyday talk. He calls them the "skeleton" on which we hang the rest of discourse (and without which, our discourse would be meaningless). And closer to home, in Stanton Wortham's essay Mapping Participant Deictics, Wortham makes the case for the importance of mapping participant deictics in the talk of a classroom. He argues that you can understand quite a bit about the social structure of a classroom by following how different participant deictics are deployed.

Anyway, back to Hegel, Andy, I'd be interested to hear about Hegel and his Here, This, Now.


On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 6:32 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Oh Henry I don't see Peirce as Linguist. Only a
    Linguist would see Peirce as a Linguist, because they
    see everything as a branch of Linguistics. I see
    Peirce as a Philosopher. And he could claim to be
    utterly incapable of managing his own life as the
    foremost qualification for being a philosopher. Peirce
    was a Logician who invented two different schools of
    philosophy: Pragmatism and Semiotics.

    I value Peirce's Icon/Index/Symbol in particular
    because it is a logical triad which Hegel never
    theorised and it nicely complements Hegel helping us
    understand how Logic is in the world. For Peirce,
    Semiotics is something going on in Nature before it is
    acquired by human beings, which is an idea I
    appreciate. He is also worthy of praise for how he
    overcame all kinds of Dualism with both his Semiotics
    and his Pragmaticism.

    A total madman. A real Metaphysician,


    Andy Blunden
    http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>

    On 8/05/2017 3:22 AM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:

        David and Andy,
        I have seen Peirce’s categories firstness,
        secondness and thirdness on the chat before, and
        certainly you were part of that discussion. I
        would like to understand that better, also how it
        relates to the three categories of signs (iconic,
        indexical and symbolic). I have been reading your
        “Thinking of Feeling” piece and wonder how that
        might relate, which I hope so, since it would
        bring development into the mix. Also (sorry!),
        Andy’s Academia articles on political
        representation and activity/social theory are
        probably relevant in some way, though Andy
        probably sees language as a figure against a
        larger ground and a linguist (like Peirce) turns
        the figure/ground relationship around?

            On May 5, 2017, at 4:01 PM, David Kellogg
            <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>> wrote:


            (As usual, I don't see the problem. I usually
            don't see these problems
            until the tide is well and truly over my head.)

            Meaning is simply another word for
            organization. Organization is always
            present and never separable from matter: it's
            a property of matter, the way
            that the internet is a property of a computer.
            Sometimes this organization
            is brought about without any human
            intervention (if you are religious, you
            will say that it brought about divinely, and
            if you are Spinozan, by
            nature: it amounts to the same thing, because
            "Deus Sive Natura").
            Sometimes it is brought about by human
            ingenuity (but of course if you are
            religious you will say that it is the divine
            in humans at work, and if you
            are Spinozan you will say that humans are
            simply that part of nature which
            has become conscious of itself: once again, Ii
            think it amounts to the same
            thing). So of course there are not two kinds
            of substance, res cogitans vs
            res extensa, only one substance and different
            ways of organizing it (which
            in the end amount to the same thing).

            You say that discourse particles like "Guess
            what?" and "so there" and
            "because" and "irregardless" and "what you say
            to the contrary
            notwithstanding" are "indexical". I agree,
            insofar as they depend on their
            relationship to the context of situation for
            their meaning. You say that a
            Southern drawl is indexical, and that the
            relationship of jazz or blues or
            hiphop to blackness is indexical. I agree,
            insofar as they satisfy the
            condition I just mentioned. But "because" is
            also a symbol, and a
            Southerner still sounds like a Southerner when
            he/she moves to New York
            City (and in fact you can argue they sound
            more so). In Africa, jazz and
            blues and hiphop in Africa are related to
            Americanness and not to

            So your division of signs into just three
            categories is too simple, Greg.
            In fact, if you really read your Peirce, you
            will discover that there are
            tens of thousands of categories, but they are
            generated from three
            ineffable primitives ("firstness",
            "secondness", and "thirdness"). So for
            example all words are symbols insofar as you
            have to know English in order
            to understand "Guess what?" or "because". But
            some words are
            symbol-indices, symbols that function as
            indexes, because they depend
            on the context of situation for their meaning.
            Without the symbolic
            gateway, they cannot function as indices. My
            wife, for example, cannot tell
            a Southerner from a more general American
            accent, and I myself still have
            trouble figuring out who is an Australian and
            who is an FOB bloody pom.
            Similarly, my wife doesn't see the blackness
            in hiphop--it sounds like
            K-pop to her.

            I don't actually think that any signs are
            associative or "prehensive"; I
            think that they are all different ways of
            looking or apprehending. So for
            example you can apprehend a wording as a
            symbol: a way of organizing sound
            stuff so that it "stands for" a way of
            organizing other stuff (sometimes
            lunchboxes and backpacks, actual categories of
            objects and sometimes the
            abstract models-in-the-making that Andy calls
            "projects"). You can also
            look at wording as index: not as something
            that is "associated" to the lips
            and tongue by juxtaposition or proximity or
            even continguity but rather
            something that has a necessary relation to the
            vocal tract (which is itself
            not a physiological organ, but something
            brought about by human
            organization). But when I look at sound waves
            on my Praat spectrograph and
            think of the shelving sea, what I am trying to
            get at is the sound stuff,
            the noise, the firstness of the stuff of
            words. I'm not Cezanne: I don't
            think there is any way of doing this with my
            eyes or ears alone: I think it
            requires a very complex combination of tools
            and signs to get down to
            firstness. But as Spinoza would have said if
            he had breakfast with
            Bacon, the head and the hand are not much by
            themselves, but nobody
            has ever really shown the limits of what they
            can do when they put each
            other in order and start to organize the world
            around them.

            (And that is about as much philosophy as you
            are going to get out of me,
            I'm afraid. The tide is galloping in....)

            David Kellogg
            Macquarie University

            PS: What I am absolutely certain of is this:
            mediating activity is not
            absent in sign use, pace Alfredo or
            Wolff-Michael, but it is very different
            from mediating activity in tool use, for the
            same reason that painting is
            different from wording: in painting you CAN
            leave out the human (if you are
            doing a dead seal for example, or if you are
            Rothko or Jackson Pollack--but
            keep in mind that the former committed suicide
            and the latter murdered two
            innocent young women). But in wording you
            never ever can. Wording can feel
            unmediated--in fact it has to feel unmediated
            or it doesn't work very
            well--but in reality it's even more mediated
            than ever.


            On Sat, May 6, 2017 at 1:09 AM, Greg Thompson

                David (and others),

                In the interests of disagreement (which I
                know you dearly appreciate), your
                last post included this:
                "Words don't "cause" meaning: they provide
                material correlates for meaning
                and in that sense "realise" them as matter."

                I was with you up until that point, but
                that's where I always lose you.

                I know it is a rather trite thing to say
                but I guess it really depends on
                what you mean by "meaning". If by meaning,
                you mean some plane of existence
                that runs parallel to the material stuff,
                then this seems to be a bit of
                trouble since this leaves us with, on the
                one hand, "matter" (res extensa?
                noumena?), and on the other hand "meaning"
                (res cogitans? phenomena?).
                Matter is easy enough to locate, but where
                do we locate "meaning" as you
                have described it?

                This reminds me of Saussure's classic
                drawing on p. 112 of his Cours
                (attached) in which "the indefinite plane
                of jumbled ideas" (A in the
                diagram) exists on one side of the chasm
                and "the equally vague plane of
                sounds" (B) exists on the other side of
                the chasm. Each side is
                self-contained and self-referential, and
                never the twain shall meet. Worlds

                And this ties to the conversation in the
                other thread about the
                ineffability of meaning (as well as Andy's
                Marx quote about a science of
                language that is shorn from life). My
                suspicion is that this supposed
                ineffability of meaning has everything to
                do with this Saussurean approach
                to semiotics (i.e., meaningfulness).

                Peirce's triadic view of the sign offers a
                different approach that may give
                a way out of this trouble by putting the
                word back INto the world. (p. 102
                of the attached Logic as Semiotic).

                Peirce offers three kinds of relations of
                representamen (signifier) to
                object: iconic, indexical, and symbolic.
                The symbol is the relation with
                which we are most familiar - it is the one
                that Saussure speaks of and is
                the one that is ineffable or, in
                Saussure's words, "arbitrary", i.e.
                "conventional". It is the stuff of words,
                the meaning of which is found in
                other words (hence the sense of
                ineffability). With only the symbolic
                function, the whole world of words would
                be entirely self-referential and
                thus truly ineffable (and this is why I
                like to say that Derrida is the end
                of the Saussurean road - he took that idea
                to its logical conclusion and
                discovered that the meaning of meaning is,
                well, empty (and thus

                But Peirce has two other relations of
                representamen to object, the iconic
                and the indexical. In signs functioning
                iconically, the representamen
                contains some quality of the object that
                it represents (e.g., a map that
                holds relations of the space that it
                represents or onomatopoeia like "buzz"
                in which the representamen has some of the
                qualities of the sound of the
                bee flying by). With signs functioning
                indexically, the relationship of
                representamen to object is one of temporal
                or spatial contiguity (e.g.,
                where there is smoke there is fire, or
                where there is a Southern twang,
                there is a Southerner, or, most
                classically, when I point, the object to
                which I am pointing is spatially
                contiguous with the finger that is

                Now if I follow the argument of another of
                the inheritors of Roman
                Jakobson's legacy, Michael Silverstein
                (yes, Hasan and Halliday weren't the
                only inheritors of this tradition -
                Michael was a student of Jakobson's at
                Harvard... and he does a great impression
                of Jacobson too), then we can
                indeed locate a ground of the word (i.e.,
                the symbolic function) in the
                more primitive (i.e., rudimentary)
                indexical function.

                But that argument is always a bit too much
                for me (if there are any takers,
                the best place to find this argument is in
                Silverstein's chapter
                "Metapragmatic Discourse, Metapragmatic
                Function," or in less explicit but
                slightly more understandable article
                "Indexical Order and the Dialectics of
                Sociolinguistics Life").

                Vygotsky's argument is quite a bit more
                elegant and comprehensible: in
                ontogeny meaningfulness begins with the
                index, first as the index par
                excellence, pointing (something that, as
                Andy has previously pointed out,
                might not be exactly how things go in a
                literal sense, but the general
                structure here works well, I think, as a
                heuristic if nothing else - words
                are first learned as indexes, temporally
                and spatially collocated, "bottle"
                is first uttered as a way of saying
                "thirsty" and then later to refer to a
                co-present object; note this is also why
                young kids get discourse markers
                at such a young age (and seems incredibly
                precocious when they do!), since
                discourse markers are primarily
                indexical). The indexical function is the
                rudimentary form that then provides the
                groundwork for the development of
                the symbolic function.

                So then, in this Peircean(Vygotskian)
                approach, the meaning of signs is not
                ineffable, there is a grounding for words,
                and that grounding is the
                indexical, the "word"/sign that is both in
                the world and of the world.

                This seems to me a way of putting meaning
                back into matter. And perhaps
                speaking of words as the material
                correlates of meaning can be a useful
                heuristic (i.e., how else can we talk
                about meanings and concepts given our
                current set of meanings/concepts?). But we
                should also recognize that if it
                becomes more than an heuristic it can lead
                us astray if we take it too far.

                I'd add here that I think one of the
                greatest opportunities for CHAT to
                make a contribution to social science
                today is in its conceptualization of
                "concepts" (and, by extension,
                "meaningfulness"). I think that perhaps one
                of the most taken-for-granted aspects of
                social science today is the idea
                that we know what "concepts" are. In
                anthropology, people easily talk about
                "cultural concepts" and typically they
                mean precisely something that floats
                around in some ethereal plane of
                "meaningfulness" and which is not of the
                material stuff of the world. Yet, this
                runs counter to the direction that
                anthropology is heading these days with
                the so-called "ontological turn"
                (I'll hold off on explaining this for now
                since this post is already
                running way too long, but I'll just
                mention that one of the aims of this is
                to get to a non-dualistic social science).
                CHAT's conception of the concept
                seems to me to offer precisely what is
                needed -- a way of understanding the
                concept as a fundamentally cultural and
                historical thing, rather than
                simply as an "ideal" thing. The concept is
                the holding of a(n historical)
                relation across time (cf. Hebb's synapse
                or Peirce's sunflower). Concepts
                are thus little historical text-lets.

                Okay, that was too much. Perhaps I will
                find some time in the future to
                return to that last part, but there is no
                time to develop it further now.

                Anyway, I'm glad that I finally had the
                opportunity to catch up to these
                conversations. Delightful reading/thinking.

                I'll keep reading but no promises that
                I'll be able to comment (as a young
                scholar, I need to be spending my time
                putting stuff out - and unlike the
                rest of you, I'm no good at
                multi-tasking... it's either one or the other
                for me).

                Very best,

                On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 4:18 PM, David
                Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com

                    Well, yes. But if present day
                    conditions are the REVERSE of the


                    under which Vygotsky was writing--that
                    is, if the present trend is to
                    subsume labor under language instead
                    of the other way around--don't we


                    this distinction between signs and
                    tools more than ever? That is, if


                    formulations like "cultural capital",
                    "symbolic violence", "use/exchange
                    value of the word" are erasing the
                    distinction between a mediating


                    which acts on the environment and a
                    mediating activity which acts on


                    mediators and on the self, and which
                    therefore has the potential for
                    reciprocity and recursion, isn't this
                    exactly where the clear-eyed
                    philosophers need to step in and
                    straighten us out?

                    I think that instead what is happening
                    is that our older generation
                    of rheumy-eyed philosophers (present
                    company--usually--excluded) are too
                    interested in the "tool power" of
                    large categories and insufficiently
                    interested in fine distinctions that
                    make a difference. But perhaps it
                    is also that our younger generation of
                    misty-eyed philosophers are, as
                    Eagleton remarked, more interested in
                    copulating bodies than exploited
                    ones. Yet these fine distinctions that
                    do make a difference equally allow
                    generalization and abstraction and
                    tool power, and the copulating flesh


                    the exploited muscles are one and the

                    Take, for example, your remark about
                    the Fourier transform performed by


                    ear (not the brain--the inner ear
                    cochlea--I can see the world centre for
                    studying the cochlea from my office
                    window). Actually, it's part of a


                    range of "realisation" phenomena that
                    were already being noticed by
                    Vygotsky. In realisational phenomena,
                    you don't have cause and effect,


                    as in cause and effect you don't have
                    "association". Words don't "cause"
                    meaning: they provide material
                    correlates for meaning and in that sense
                    "realise" them as matter. Meaning does
                    not "cause" wording; it correlates
                    wording to a semantics--an activity of
                    consciousness--and through it to a
                    context of situation or culture, and
                    in that sense "realises" it.

                    So in his lecture on early childhood,
                    Vygotsky says that the


                    of forms, colours, and sizes by the
                    eye in early childhood is part of a


                    way relationship, a dialogue, between
                    the sense organs and the brain. The
                    reason why we don't see a table as a
                    trapezoid, when we stand over it and
                    compare the front with the back, the
                    reason why we don't see a piece of
                    chalk at nighttime as black, the
                    reason why we have orthoscopic


                    and we don't see a man at a distance
                    as a looming midget is that the


                    imposes the contrary views on the eye.
                    And where does the brain get this
                    view if not from language and from
                    other people?

                    David Kellogg
                    Macquarie University

                    On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 11:55 AM, Andy
                    Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
                    <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

                        Personally, I think the first and
                        most persistently important thing is


                        see how much alike are tables and

                        But ... Vygotsky was very
                        insistent on the distinction
                        because he was
                        fighting a battle against the idea
                        that speech ought to be subsumed


                        the larger category of labour. He
                        had to fight for semiotics against a
                        vulgar kind of orthodox Marxism.
                        But we here in 2017 are living in
                        different times, where we have
                        Discourse Theory and Linguistics while
                        Marxism is widely regarded as
                        antique. As Marx said "Just as


                        have given thought an independent
                        existence, so they were bound to make
                        language into an independent
                        realm." and we live well and truly
                        in the
                        times when labour is subsumed
                        under language, and not the other way


                        Everyone knows that a table is
                        unlike a word. The point it to


                        how tables are signs and word are
                        material objects.


                        (BTW David, back in 1986 I walked
                        in an offshoot of the bionic ear
                        project. The ear has a little
                        keyboard that works like a piano


                        reverse, making a real time
                        Fourier transform of that air
                        pressure wave


                        coding the harmonics it in nerve
                        impulse. The brain never hears that
                        pressure signal.)

                        Andy Blunden
                        On 3/05/2017 7:06 AM, Alfredo
                        Jornet Gil wrote:

                            David (and or Mike, Andy,
                            anyone else), could you give a
                            bit more on


                            distinction between words and

                            And could you say how (and
                            whether) (human, hand) nails
                            are different
                            from tables; and then how
                            nails are different from words?



                            on behalf of David Kellogg
                            Sent: 01 May 2017 08:43
                            To: eXtended Mind, Culture,
                            Subject: [Xmca-l]  The Stuff
                            of Words

                            Gordon Wells quotes this from
                            an article Mike wrote in a


                            George Miller. Mike is talking
                            about artefacts:

                            "They are ideal in that they
                            contain in coded form the
                            interactions of
                            which they
                            were previously a part and
                            which they mediate in the
                            present (e.g.,


                            structure of
                            a pencil carries within it the
                            history of certain forms of


                            are material
                            in that they are embodied in
                            material artifacts. This principle


                            with equal
                            force whether one is
                            considering language/speech or
                            the more usually


                            of artifacts such as tables
                            and knives which constitute


                            differentiates a word, such as
                            “language” from, say, a table.
                            is the
                            relative prominence
                            of their material and ideal
                            aspects. No word exists apart
                            from its
                            instantiation (as a
                            configuration of sound waves,
                            or hand movements,



                            or as neuronal activity),
                            whereas every table embodies
                            an order



                            human beings."

                            This is the kind of thing that
                            regularly gets me thrown out of



                            the ear. Mike says that the
                            difference between a word and
                            a table is


                            relative salience of the ideal
                            and the material. Sure--words
                            are full


                            the ideal, and tables are full
                            of material. Right?

                            Nope. Mike says it's the other
                            way around. Why? Well, because
                            a word
                            without some word-stuff (sound
                            or graphite) just isn't a
                            word. In a
                            word, meaning is solidary with
                            material sounding: change one,
                            and you
                            change the other. But with a
                            table, what you start with is
                            the idea of


                            table; as soon as you've got
                            that idea, you've got a table.
                            You could
                            change the material to
                            anything and you'd still have
                            a table.

                            Wells doesn't throw Mike out
                            by the ear. But he does ignore the


                            perversity in what Mike is
                            saying, and what he gets out
                            of the quote


                            just that words are really
                            just like tools. When in fact
                            Mike is


                            just the opposite.

                            (The part I don't get is
                            Mike's notion that the
                            structure of a pencil
                            carries within it the history
                            of certain forms of writing.
                            Does he


                            that the length of the pencil
                            reflects how often it's been
                            used? Or is


                            making a more archaeological
                            point about graphite, wood,
                            rubber and


                            relationship to a certain
                            point in the history of
                            writing and erasing?
                            Actually, pencils are more
                            like tables than like
                            words--the idea has


                            come first.)

                            David Kellogg
                            Macquarie University

                Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
                Assistant Professor
                Department of Anthropology
                880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
                Brigham Young University
                Provo, UT 84602

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602