- The Semiotics of Emotional Expression
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 53, Number 2, Spring 2017
- pp. 189-215
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Charles Sanders Peirce famously distinguishes between three types of sign, depending on how the sign refers to its object. An "icon" refers by resemblance. An "index" refers by a physical connection. And a "symbol" refers by habit or convention. In this paper I argue that emotional expressions—e.g. cries of sadness, laughs of amusement, and scowls of anger—refer to emotions in none of these ways. Instead, they refer to their objects by manifesting them, or by enabling the perception of them. Thus, a cry signifies sadness because an observer who hears a cry can hear sadness, a laugh signifies joy because an observer who hears a laugh can hear joy, and a scowl signifies anger because an observer who sees a scowl can see anger. Although this analysis of emotional expression challenges a common understanding of Peirce's theory of signs, I demonstrate that it is ultimately consistent with Peirce's views on signification, emotion, and perception.