RE: Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.

From: Cunningham, Donald J. (
Date: Thu Dec 16 2004 - 12:43:09 PST

There is much to admire in Uslucan's paper but also much I would
critique. To leave aside a discussion of firstness, secondness and
thirdness is a bit like a discussion of Descartes leaving out that pesky
issue of mind/body. I am especially concerned that the paper gives the
impression that Peirce minimizes the importance of doubt when in fact
doubt (genuine doubt that arises from experience) is the only state in
which we learn something new. It is true that he saw no need for the
methodological form of doubt used by Descartes as a tool to discover the
indubitable, but that is an entirely different issue. Likewise, for
Peirce all thought is in signs, but not all signs are thoughts. Dialogue
is semiosic but not all semiosis is dialogic (unless you take dialogue
as a metaphor for all inter- or trans-action).

But perhaps a more useful activity than taking shots at the article is
to consider the broader question of how Peircean semiotics might inform
activity theory and vice versa. In a rash moment I once suggested that
Peirce's concept of sign might elucidate the concept of artifact in
CHAT. That may be because I never had a very clear idea of artifact
(never mind object!)...........djc

Don Cunningham
Indiana University

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Barowy []
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2004 12:09 PM
Subject: Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.

"..dialogue is the genuine context in which signs evolve. The semiotic
activity has at least two sides: the generation of signs and the
interpretation of signs. All signs require two minds: (a) a quasi
and a (b) quasi interpreter (CP 4.551). Dialogicity is not only a
human capacity but, far more, it is a constitutive condition of signs
and of
the act of semiosis."

I think this is where semiotics, while preserving the constructive
nature of
meaning making, departs radically from constructivism (a culture-free
individually-focussed epistemology) to account for a collective basis of

thought. "Mind is distributed" seems to be the buzzphrase, but it is
than that - signs, in their evolution, have a history closely tied to
ontogenesis. As well as being dialogic, semiosis relies upon the history
the interpretant, with whom interpretation is a
putting-into-relation-of-prior-signs. Ontogenesis is now a development
the "semiotic self" and consequently developmental processes are

Semiosis is inherently dynamic, dependent over time: "Even in the most
moment, thinking is dialogue between the self of the moment and the self
the next moment"

And a solid methodology of semiotics is forthcoming (I've heard semiotic

approches termed "eclectic"): Peirce "failed to formulate the empirical

basis of the semiotic constitution...."

But I think I disagree with this: "The idea of a semiotic psychology is
look at how signs actually function in intrapersonal and interpersonal
behavior. "

Isn't the nature of semiosis, by involving signs that are always
fundamentally and only interpersonal, never intrapersonal in the
sense, no matter how private is the private moment?


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