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0. Introduction—Toward a Logic of Culture

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

The aim of this book is to explore the theoretical possibility and the social function of a unified approach to every phenomenon of signification and/or communication. Such an approach should take the form of a general semiotic theory, able to explain every case of sign-function in terms of underlying systems of elements mutually correlated by one or more codes.

A design for a general semiotics(1) should consider: (a) a theory of codes and (b) a theory of sign production – the latter taking into account a large range of phenomena such as the common use of languages, the evolution of codes, aesthetic communication, different types of interactional communicative behavior, the use of signs in order to mention things or states of the world and so on.

Since this book represents only a preliminary exploration of such a theoretical possibility, its first chapters are necessarily conditioned by the present state of the art, and cannot evade some questions that – in a further perspective – will definitely be left aside. In particular one must first take into account the all-purpose notion of ‘sign’ and the problem of a typology of signs (along with the apparently irreducible forms of semiotic enquiry they presuppose) in order to arrive at a more rigorous definition of sign-function and at a typology of modes of sign-production.

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1. Signification and Communication

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

If every communication process must be explained as relating to a system of significations, it is necessary to single out the elementary structure of communication at the point where communication may be seen in its most elementary terms. Although every pattern of signification is a cultural convention, there is one communicative process in which there seems to be no cultural convention at all, but only – as was proposed in 0.7 – the passage of stimuli. This occurs when so-called physical ‘information’ is transmitted between two mechanical devices.

When a floating buoy signals to the control panel of an automobile the level reached by the gasoline, this process occurs entirely by means of a mechanical chain of causes and effects. Nevertheless, according to the principles of information theory, there is an ‘informational’ process that is in some way considered a communicational process too. Our example does not consider what happens once the signal (from the buoy) reaches the control panel and is converted into a visible measuring device (a red moving line or an oscillating arm): this is an undoubted case of sign-process in which the position of the arm stands for the level of the gasoline, in accordance with a conventionalized code.

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3. Theory of Sign Production

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

What happens when I produce a sign or a string of signs? First of all I must accomplish a task purely in terms of physical stress, for I have to ‘uitter’. Utterances are usually considered as emissions of sounds, but one may enlarge this notion and consider as ‘utterances’ any production of signals. Thus I utter when I draw an image, when I make a purposeful gesture or when I produce an object that, besides its technical function, aims to communicate something.

In all cases this act of uttering presupposes labor. First of all the labor of producing the signal; then the labor of choosing, among the set of signals that I have at my disposal, those that must be articulated in order to compose an expression, as well as the labor of isolating an expression-unit in order to compose an expression-string, a message, a text. Fluency or difficulty in speaking, insofar as it depends on a more or less perfect knowledge of linguistic codes, must be examined by semiotics, although I do not propose to go into the matter here. Rossi-Landi (1968) has dealt with this aspect of performance.

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4. The Subject of Semiotics

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

Since it has been said that the labor of sign production also represents a form of social criticism and of social practice, a sort of ghostly presence, until now somewhat removed from the present discourse, finally makes an unavoidable appearance. What is, in the semiotic framework, the place of the acting subject of every semiosic act?

If one of the topics of a theory of sign production is the relationship between sender and addressee, which constitutes the basis for a consideration of the various kinds of ‘speech acts’, one could remark that very little attention has been devoted, in the preceding chapters, to the ‘transcendental’ or ‘empirical’ protagonist of these processes.

A theory of the relationship sender-addressee should also take into account the role of the ‘speaking’ subject not only as a communicational figment but as a concrete historical, biological, psychic subject, as it is approached by psychoanalysis and related disciplines. Anyway the approach followed in this book requires that the following assumptions be made:

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2. Theory of Codes

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

When a code apportions the elements of a conveying system to the elements of a conveyed system, the former becomes the expression of the latter and the latter becomes the content of the former. A sign-function arises when an expression is correlated to a content, both the correlated elements being the functives of such a correlation.

We are now in a position to recognize the difference between a signal and a sign. A signal is a pertinent unit of a system that may be an expression system ordered to a content, but could also be a physical system without any semiotic purpose; as such it is studied by information theory in the stricter sense of the term. A signal can be a stimulus that does not mean anything but causes or elicits something; however, when used as the recognized antecedent of a foreseen consequent it may be viewed as a sign, inasmuch as it stands for its consequent (as far as the sender is concerned). On the other hand a sign is always an element of an expression plane conventionally correlated to one (or several) elements of a content plane.

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ON THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE [HARVARD LECTURES OF 1865]

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

162

W R I T I N G S OF P E I R C E , 1857-1866

Lecture I

MS 94: February-March 1865

Though I ask your attention to one of the studies of the ancient

Trivium—a study therefore according both to etymology and long prejudice, trivial—I trust I need not at this day defend it from the charge of piddling. It is now pretty plain that though modern science has scorned the scholastic terminology it has either continued to employ or has been forced to relearn the ideas that terminology conveyed, having simply thrown away the advantage of exact expressions. Logic in itself, however, has never been contemned by profound minds. It was a particular scheme of logic and not the science itself against which Bacon protested (see Aphorism XI); hence, he proceeds at once to substitute for that scheme another of his own,—and that intended to be a strictly logical one as I shall hereafter show. In the same way the reform of

Ramus, the reform of Kant and all the reforms of science have been logical reforms. The Ramists sneered at the scholastics, the modern natural theorists sneer at both, and certain persons are now beginning to sneer at the natural theorists. Another reform seems to be coming: it is in the air. Several logical questions are already under discussion by scientific men. Naturalists are divided into two classes, more according to Lyell upon a logical question than anything else. An eminent mathem/aticjian has proposed a reform of the most important part of the theory of probabilities on logical grounds. And physicists ought not to feel too secure of the logical character of the hypothesis of impenetrability and its consequences which has already been attacked by men of high standing. On this account, I believe that there are not now many thoughtful men of science who will think that the investigation of the logical character of scientific reasoning is a needless or unimportant inquiry.

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3. The Sense of Beauty never furthered the Performance of a single Act of Duty

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

10

W H I T I N G S OF P E I R C E , 1857-1866

The Sense of Beauty never furthered the Performance of a single

Act of Duty

MS 12: 26 March 1857

"Schiller, in his Esthetic Letters, observes that the sense of beauty never furthered the performance of a single act of duty" (Ruskin).

Is it possible that the great philosophical poet of the age has contented himself with an "observation" on such a subject—an observation, too, so contrary to daily experience? Ruskin is one of those who, without pretending to understand what they term the "German Philosophy," yet presume to censure it.1 If he had read the letter which follows the one to which he refers he would have found the words: "Beauty is in the highest degree fruitful with respect to knowledge and morality,"

We must go nearer to the fountain-head, then, if we seek Schiller's view of the matter, and I think I cannot do better than to devote this Theme to a most brief exposition of the doctrine of the Esthetic Letters, so far as it relates to our present subject.

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THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE; OR, INDUCTION AND HYPOTHESIS [LOWELL LECTURES OF 1866]

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

358

W R I T I N G S OF P E I R C E , 1857-1866

Lecture I

MS 122; September-October 1866

Ladies and Gentlemen

I address you upon an exceedingly dry subject which I cannot hope to make entertaining; but the great importance of which to everyone who is to use his mind at all ought to render it interesting. I shall be obliged to call upon you for an exertion of intellect which is unnecessary in a popular lecture upon any subject which presents less unity or depends less upon long trains of thought; but I think that for the sake of the object to be gained you will be willing to make the effort, and

I refuse to believe that a people as subtile as any under the sun and who promise to eclipse every nation since the Greeks in their genius for abstract studies should be generally unable to follow the necessarily complicated arguments of the Logician.

Logic is a much abused science. Like Medicine, Law, and in short any branch of knowledge which has important practical bearings, it is brought by its applications to an ordeal which is sure to make its shortcomings manifest. It is no more perfect than any other product of humanity and we have the same right to be dissatisfied with its present state that we have with everything else that we are in a condition to improve. But many persons not resting here, go so far as to say that it is utterly useless,—and since they do so while unacquainted with the present state of the science—they ought consistently to maintain that it never can be improved so as to be of any use.

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4. Raphael and Michael Angelo compared as men

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

14

W R I T I N G S OF P E I R C E , 1857-1866

Thus, in their best days, Michael Angelo was old, Raphael young, and we can discern, by comparing them together that they have corresponding faults.

Michael Angelo, for instance, seemed (at this time1) to want self-Michael Angelo, for instance, seemed (at this time1) to want selfconfidence: he feared to undertake the painting of the Sistine Chapel, a task which I need not say he proved equal to. Raphael never would have hesitated in such a case; he erred the other way, a fact which we never should know, however, if he had not attempted to imitate

Michael Angelo. But observe how Michael Angelo in his old age is still young; he retains his vivacity, he retains his power, and when he can no longer hope to improve and sees himself outdone by a stripling, envy, which would seem almost inevitable, finds no place in his bosom.

Raphael, too, is old in his youth, which is very well proved by the fact that the heat of his temperament in nowise retarded the maturity of his mind.

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APPENDIX

Peirce, Charles S. PDF
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5. A Scientific Book of Synonyms

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

Scientific Book of Synonyms, 1857

17

A Scientific Book of Synonyms

MS 20: November-December 1857

Preface

Most works of this kind have proved to be little better than failures, and the reasons seem not very difficult to point out. The differences of the only synonyms one would ever take the trouble to refer to a vocabulary for are of such a delicate and evanescent character that, like the flavor of a fine wine, when we try to notice them they are gone; so that when a man sits down to write about them he is puzzled about words which he could never use amiss. The differences no longer suggest themselves to him, but he has to suggest them to himself. Now as it is commonly said that no two words have exactly the same meaning, so it is also true that none have exactly the same force in any respect. Of course, then, the writer no sooner suggests a difference to himself than he finds it accords with the facts; but in this way he entirely misses the object of the work which is to note the important differences.

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6. Think Again!

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

20

W R I T I N G S OF P E I R C E , 1857-1866

Think Again!

P 1: Harvard Magazine

4 (April 1858): 100-105

He that knows better how to tame a shrew,

Now let him speak; 't is charity to show.

MR. EDITOR:—

A writer in the Magazine has already awaked to the fact that Shakespeare is not what he is cracked up to be, and proclaims himself a reformer accordingly. But his business will be no very difficult task, if undertaken with characteristic modesty; for few of us either love or read the works of Shakespeare much. As for the Iliad and Odyssey, they have long been detested by Juniors and Freshmen generally, and the Vedas are now held up by professors to be laughed at by students.

Yet these three have been considered the sublimest poems out of the

Bible. Does all this show that the delicacies of Tennyson and Browning, or else the inevitable progress of the mind, have given us a distaste for the rudeness and meagreness of these old poets? No. At no time since Shakespeare's day, at least at no time since Nicholas Rowe, have they been so well appreciated. Johnson and Pope, for example, had no kindred feeling with either the Greek or the English poet. This will hardly be questioned, but I will support it by an example or two. Johnson never could wade through Homer, although he was well read on most other branches of Greek literature. He has the following criticism on Cymbeline:—

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8. The Axioms of Intuition. After Kant

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

Axioms of Intuition, 1859 31

31

The Axioms of Intuition

After Kant

MS 50: May 1859

All Intuitions are Extensive Quantities.

An extensive quantity is that wherein the representation of parts renders possible (and therefore necessarily antecedes in the synthesis) the representation of the whole.

Axiom I

Space has three dimensions.

Proof. Space is the form of the external sense. Our knowledge of external things can only be of qualities; and since all knowledge is discrimination I can only know them by their difference of quality. And this difference of quality must exist at each moment of time. It cannot be a mere difference in quantity, because different quantities differing also in quality must be observable at the same time. And difference in quality necessitates the possibility of entire difference of quality; and this therefore must be expressed in the conditional form of intuition.

But since space and time are the only forms of intuition, there can be no difference in the universe except difference in space and difference in time. This entire difference in quality therefore is a difference in space not a difference in quantity—an entire difference in position with no difference in distance—in short is dimension.

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1. My Life written for the Class-Book

Peirce, Charles S. PDF
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2. Private Thoughts principally on the conduct of life

Peirce, Charles S. PDF

Private Thoughts, 1860

5

XXIV

1860 June 11

Errare est hominis

Observations may be wrong, but still it is not very likely they are quite the contrary of the fact, and as long as they are not, they are not essentially false; they only need additions and modifications.

So likewise, logical fallacies produce propositions, false, indeed, as they were intended, but yet with a modified meaning, true. This is obviously the case with the Illicit Process. In the cases of the Undistributed Middle, Negative Premisses, and Ambiguous Middle, a modification of one of the premisses will always make a conclusion possible.

This fact, that human errors are always those which addition or amendment will rectify, has given rise to the common saying that

"genius never errs" and to the philosophers' boast "that science has never been in the wrong." The fact is, essential error can only arise from perversion, from wickedness, or from passion. Sincere and philosophic production have no other falsity than that which is inseparable from every human proposition.

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