T. L. Short's Peirce's Theory of Signs offers a strong interpretation of semeiotic, advocating a developmental and naturalistic position. This commentary examines some of the main features of Short's approach, raising a number of critical questions concerning the growth of Peirce's thought and the problem of anthropomorphism. First, two possible weaknesses in Short's account of the development of semeiotic, connected to the treatment of the "New List of Categories" and the role of the index, are noted. Next, the menace of anthropomorphism is placed in the context of Peirce's startling affirmation of this point of view. Finally, the article draws attention to Short's bold claim that Peirce's theory of signs needs to be modified in order to accommodate a plurality of final interpretants in view of varying purposes.
This paper is a commentary on some topics discussed by Thomas Short in his recent book Peirce's Theory of Signs: Peirce's distinction between iconic and indexical signs, the objects of propositions, and different ways of interpreting the distinction between the immediate and dynamic objects of signs. Peirce's distinction between immediate and dynamic objects is in certain respects analogous to Alexius Meinong's distinction between the "auxiliary objects" and the "ultimate objects" ("target objects") of mental representations. It is suggested that the models of a theory can be regarded as its immediate objects, and the real systems represented by the models are the dynamic objects of the theory.
T.L. Short's book argues that Peirce's early theory of signs was flawed, and that the development of his mature theories required a new start and the rejection of some fundamental doctrines from the earlier view. While agreeing that Peirce's view of signs changed and agreeing on the new developments that were of most significance, I express some doubts about Short's diagnosis of why such changes were required. I argue that the changes were required, not by internal inconsistencies in the earlier position, but rather by the need to come up with an adequate account of the role of experience in cognition.
In his landmark book, Peirce's Theory of Signs, T. L. Short argues that music signifies as a pure icon. A pure icon, according to Peirce, is not a likeness. It "does not draw any distinction between itself and its object" (EP2:163), and it "serves as a sign solely and simply by exhibiting the quality it serves to signify" (EP2:306). In music, this quality consists of the specifically musical feelings or ideas contained in the piece in question, and such musical feelings are properly interpreted by means of an emotional interpretant rather than an energetic or logical one. Short, following Peirce, is correct in maintaining that music primarily signifies feeling-content whose proper means of expression is musical and whose proper interpretation by the listener involves the generation of a corresponding feeling. Nonetheless, musical signification is not purely iconic. Responding to the musical feelings presented in a work requires previous acquaintance with its style tradition, and this acquaintance involves logical interpretants. In addition, the integral temporality of music calls into question the possibility of its being purely iconic.
According to T.L. Short, Peirce's early thought-sign account of semeiotic engenders fatal flaws. On the one hand, it entails an infinite regressus of representation that cannot feasibly explain the connection between signs and objects and, on the other, an infinite progressus, leaving Peirce's theory without the wherewithal to account for the sign's meaning and significance. According to Short, Peirce overcomes the first flaw through the robust development of the notion of the index and the concept of collateral experience. The second flaw is overcome through the pragmatic theory of meaning, connected as it is to the notion of purpose and, ultimately, a complex theory of teleology. My commentary focuses primarily on Short's important analysis of Peirce's teleology. I argue that he is successful in giving a plausible, naturalistic account of Peirce's theory without straying from the spirit of Peirce's systematic thought. Although, in my view, the book is the best account of Peirce's semiotic grammar in print, it fails to give a sufficient systematic analysis of the other two branches of Peirce's semeiotic—critical logic and formal rhetoric.
T.L. Short's book is a major achievement in Peirce's scholarship and probably one of the best books on Peirce ever written. However, it does not take the impact of evolutionary metaphysics on the development of semiotics into account. Furthermore, it blends out the specific conditions that final causation is subject to in the development of culture and morality.
My contribution to the present symposium on Short's book is an assessment of it as an attempt to provide a reliable starting understanding of Peirce's semeiotic for anyone interested in its relevance to contemporary philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, which is the special (but somewhat limited) perspective from which Short himself views Peirce's work. I suggest that although the central core of the book—meaning those chapters (3 through 9) which present the basic conceptions of Peirce's theory of thought as representation—is successful in providing an unusually lucid account of its basic process conceptions (subject to important qualification), and is clearly of special interest in that part of it in which Short applies Peirce's conceptions in the context of current problematics in analytic philosophy (Chs. 10–12), it is seriously flawed as a book by the gratuitous inclusion (in Ch. 2) of a methodologically unsound and implausibly argued thesis about the development of Peirce's thought which serves no useful purpose relative to the rest of the book. As regards the qualification referred to above the one provided here concerns his account of Peirce's conception of symbolism in particular, which is based on a misunderstanding of its proper interpretant.
This response to my seven critics is organized under five topics: 1. The book's scope and approach; 2. Physicalism, idealism, anthropomorphism; 3. Final causation; 4. Peirce's development; 5. Signs, objects, interpretants. No ground is ceded, but I have found the interchange clarifying and hope that the reader will find it so, too.
The revival of philosophical pragmatism has generated a wealth of intramural debates between neopragmatists like Richard Rorty and contemporary scholars devoted to explicating the classical pragmatism of John Dewey and William James. Of all these internecine conflicts, the most divisive concerns the status of language and experience in pragmatist philosophy. Contemporary scholars of classical pragmatism defend experience as the heart of pragmatism while neopragmatists drop the concept of experience in favor of a thoroughly linguistic pragmatism. I argue that both positions engender formidable risks. After discussing the present impasse, I describe a third version of pragmatism which involves a reconstruction of the classical pragmatist concept of experience in light of the criticisms of foundationalism crucial to the neopragmatist linguistic turn. This third version of pragmatism does justice to both Rorty and Dewey by focusing on experience as a temporal field.
This paper articulates a view of the relation between cognition and being in Peirce's thought, especially derived from his early papers of 1868–69. Based on the rejection of intuitions, I argue that Peirce realized an isomorphic relation between cognition and being that functions as a semiotic foundation. I consider several challenges to these notions in the literature, including doubts about pansemioticism, foundationalism, and realism. In the end, I suggest that the semiotic foundation be thought of as a kind of transcendental, in several senses of that term.
William James's letter of 12 January 1883 to William Erasmus Darwin is here published for the first time. The letter brings out the importance for the development of James's philosophy of the Darwinian emphasis on concreteness and the activities of organisms.
This paper examines the ethical status of animals and nature within the thought of Mary Whiton Calkins. Though Calkins held that her self-psychology and absolute personalistic idealism were compatible in many ways, the two schools of thought offer different conceptions of personhood with respect to animals and nature. On the one hand, Calkins's self-psychology classified animals and nature as non-persons, due to the fact that self-psychology viewed animals and nature as physical entities bereft of the psychical qualities necessary for personhood. On the other hand, Calkins's absolute personalistic idealism classified animals and nature as persons, due to the absolute personalistic idealist understanding of the universe as ultimately mental and personal. Because Calkins's ethics requires the ethical individual to will for the benefit of all human beings, an ethics that adopts Calkins's psychological conception of personhood promotes an anthropocentrism that views animals and nature as possessing merely instrumental value, while an ethics that adopts Calkins's philosophical conception of personhood views animals and nature as possessing intrinsic value.
This paper addresses the significance of William James's theory of emotion in contemporary emotion theory. While many of James's detractors have pointed to the problems with his definition of emotion, the bearing his theory of emotion generation would have on modern approaches in psychology suggests a different point of view.