Two comments on your very interesting posting:|
In think that what Pierce called as INDEXICAL is the same what S. Langer called SIGN. On the other had, Pierce did not make a distinction between Langer's SIGNAL and SYMBOL. In a way -- she talks about the "thirdness" too, which exists, really, only in symbols. Signals, on the other hand, must have a 1:1 relationship to what they signal (as in verb: to signal). Even with a Cultural Revolution in China and the attempt to "change" the meaning of the colors, in order for them to FUNCTION as signals (traffic signals) they have to have a local 1:1 representation (Signal:Signaled; Sign:Signified)> If people are to RELY on their meaning and really know when to drive and when to stop -- there cannot be any "interpretability" built into that relationship. (Otherwise: Kha--boom!!!)
Second: the question of arbitrariness of signals/signs/symbols (...what about tools??...). Obviously, what Pierce called "indexes", and S. Langer (Cassirer etc) called "signs" -- is either a part of the whole or in some other way it is very closely related to that what it signifies (spots-measles, lightning-thunder etc). So they are not arbitrary. Signals (as in traffic light), on the other hand, are arbitrary in a sense that they are a convention for some group of people. Although they can be different convention for another group (some gestures may have an opposite cultral meanings for different cultures, traffic lights may be pink, purple and orange if we decide so).
That leaves us with symbols -- which are interpretable, dependent on circumstances and events and the relationships between participants in these events. Their meaning (or functions that are fulfilled by their meaning) is much more complex and not arbitrary at all. If for Pierce
"A sign is as such because it stands for something to SOME INTELLIGENT SYSTEM." then for Vygotsky, I think, "a symbol is as such because it DOES something to SOME INTELLIGENT SYSTEM to change the relationship of that intelligent system to that what it symbolizes. In other words, Pierce, as a logician is in a very abstract sphere, while Vygotsky as a psychologists never looses sight of people who use that logic. Ana
Tony Whitson wrote:
If the first question for this group is one of understanding Vygotsky, then Peirce's thinking might not be so relevant. On the other hand, for exploring other ways of thinking, it could be productive to consider the distinctiveness of Peirce's thinking in relation to the others. Here is my contribution. I hope it doesn't spur people to vote against the Peirce article. I'm sure that the Uslucan article is more reader-friendly (see the Abstract at http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Journal/vol11.no2.html) than what I have written here. In the paragraphs below, I tried to stay closer to the formalism of Peirce's constructions, to resist easier assimilation to other ways of thinking about signs. Peg's examples are good ones for illustrating Peirce's distinction between symbolic and indexical signs. The spots signify measles INDEXICALLY. The three rings of the bell symbolize the imminent stopping of the trolley SYMBOLICALLY. It is the existential relationship between spots and measles that gives rise to the possibility of actions or events in which the spots are interpreted as a signification of measles. Here, the 3 terms in the sign relation are the REPRESENTAMEN (the spots, taken as signifying something other than just spots), the OBJECT (measles -- what the spots are taken as signifying), and the INTERPRETANT (the action(s) or event(s) which occur in response to the spots not as just spots, but as a sign of measles. The relationship between spots and measles which gives rise to this semiosic possibility is a relationship that exists independently of the possibility of triadic interpretation. The relationship between the three bellrings and the imminent trollystopping occurs only by virtue of the possibility of triadic interpretation. Hence, Peirce's category of "Thirdness" is fully implicated in the semiosic efficacy of the 3 bells, whereas Thirdness is implicated in a more "degenerate" form in the spots/measles/treatment sign-triad. [Besides Indexical sign relations, Iconic sign-relations are the other class of non-Symbolic sign relations.] As a logician rather than a psychologist or linguist, Peirce developed his theory of signs in terms of formal relationships among elements that make signification possible, in formal terms that don't depend on anything particular to human beings as such. Hence, his theory is articulated in terms of the basic categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness; but would not depend on more humanistic categories such as "natural" versus "non-natural." (This can provide concepts and vocabulary for non-circular discourse on human social and cultural activity). Saussure's use of "signe" and "symbole" is sometimes represented as somewhat the opposite of Peirce: “A propos du mot de symbole: Nous avons grand scrupule à employer ce terme. Le symbole a pour caractère de n’être jamais complètement arbitraire; le symbole n’est pas vide. Il y a un rudiment de lien entre idée et signe, dans symbole” My own inclination is to avoid that kind of comparison, because I think it's more important to be clear that the triadic sign in Peirce is so different from the binary (signifier/signified) sign in Saussure that they really are not commensurable enough to say that use of "sign" and "symbol" are more-or-less opposite in their respective theories. (There's not enough apposition for such opposition.) (See my chapter in Kirshner & Whitson (eds.): Situated Cognitio.) As an aside on Ana's post, which arrived while I was writing this one: The "green light" example maybe illustrates the impossibility of saying too absolutely that any sign does not admit of polysemy. During the Cultural Revolution in China, there was some effort to have "Red" mean "Go" and "Green" mean "Stop" -- so it is possible to see other meanings even in a case like this! -----Original Message----- From: Peg Griffin [mailto:Peg.Griffin@worldnet.att.net] Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2004 3:47 PM To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Vygotsky/tool/sign/symbol Hi, Is the Pierce article the one for discussion? Regarding sign or symbol, I would like to learn about what you, David, and others in the seminar see as the possible consequences of one versus the other. The definitions you found for sign and symbol make me think of Grice's discussion of natural and non-natural meaning. "These spots mean measles" is an example of natural; "Three rings of the bell means the trolley is about to stop" is an example of non-natural. Tools and symbols would both be non-natural. Signs would be natural. For language, there is also a tripartite distinction among sentence meaning, utterance meaning, and speaker meaning. Maybe that distinction would come in handy when thinking about symbols that re-present in/for a socio-historical community of users. Peg ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mike Cole" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <email@example.com> Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2004 11:42 AM Subject: Vygotsky/tool/sign/symbol What, for Vygotsky, was the relationship between tool, sign and symbol? This question was raised in a seminar David Preiss and I are conducting between Santiago and La Jolla. It turns out to be an interesting question because the answer is no obvious. LSV's book, part of which appears in *Mind in Society" was titled "orudie i znak" in Russian, which, litterally, should be trranslated as tool and sign. But sometimes is translated as tool and symbol vis, in mind and society!).. The term, symbol, is little in evidence in the Collected works, but it appears in phrases like "symbolic activity." Jaan Valsiner, when asked, said that the route to an answer lies through Cassirer. Jim Wertsch, when asked, said that the route to an answer lies through Husserl and Shpet. !! If one googles "signsymbol" one comes up with various answers to the sign symbol relationship. For example: Signs—stands for or represent something else. Not arbitrary Symbol-- Artificial or conventional signs (There is no direct relationship with their referents.) Arbitrary and ambiguous The article on Peirce in MCA is clearly relevant to this issue, but I wonder if others have considered it and might share their insights? mike