RE: peirce and artifacts; back to Uslucan

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Mon Dec 27 2004 - 08:00:10 PST

I think what Pierce might say is that the key word in what you describe is experimental. You are not just making observations and explaining what those observations mean, you are consciously aware that the problem solving abilities that you have are not sufficient to deal with new problems and you are actively searching for new answers to those problems. You do this because the system you are working within is ever changing, and you understand that it is ever changing (to say you are working within the parameters of thirdness seems trite at this point - but I just said it, so there).
In the true experimental design you recognize that the tools you have now will not increase in value - they are tools for a very specific set of problems. If new problems arise you will at the very least need to recalibrate those tools, and possibly change them completely. If physicists weren't working within this framework how would the development of relativity, and quantum physics, and QED have even been possible - the old tools should have been enough.
Most of the human condition seems to work within the condition of secondness, especially the human sciences. We often believe we are actually discovering the way in which humans interact, creating tools for a better humankind, and that these tools are transferable between problems. In other words we not only believe in magic bullets to make us better math and science students, to make us more moral, to make us better readers, but we actively search for them and promote them as elixirs of humanity. There are some who might say this is a dangerous situation where power is intermingled with solutions, where expertise trumps experimentation, where we keep applying what we already know over and over again to new problems because what we already know must be right.


From: Bill Barowy []
Sent: Mon 12/27/2004 9:48 AM
Subject: peirce and artifacts; back to Uslucan

Mike wrote:

"I am on weak ground to interpret semiotic theories, Bill. Wouldn't
 semiosis depend on the history of the interpretant and the signs too? "

I think I quoted Uslucan on just that at the bottom of my message, so it seems
we agree to agree, and at last I can relate to someone on weak ground as is
my own. Perhaps I can make it even weaker.

Your sense of Uslucan's paper is similar to what I've read about semiotic
studies being eclectic. But then, if a semiotician observes the human
cognition fundamentally to be the coordination of signs, why would some, say
Piaget's notions of stage development, be less preferable than others? Can
not one draw as one needs, and finds appropriate, from the vast semiotic bank
of the milieu?

I won't go into an analysis of woodworking and its tools for a illustration,
because these are more aimed toward the material end of the spectrum, but how
about this scenario? I once was an experimental physicist and built
instruments to make observations of the light emitted by excited atoms and
molecules. This required mastering and using electromagnetic theory, atomic
and molecular quantum theories, special relativity theory, solid state
theory, as well as optics, digital and analog electronics, mechanical design,
machining, computer programming, and whatever else. Seems eclectic, no? But
compared to the human condition, atoms and molecules in their interaction
with each other and with light are very, very simple. Still I needed many
diverse conceptual frameworks to make observations. Why should the human
condition require less?

How are we not contemplating a foolish consistency?


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