Interpreters and Interpretants

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French Interpreter's Memory (1866)

JA: Here is a passage from Peirce that is decisive in clearing up
    the relationship between the interpreter and the interpretant,
    and, not by coincidence, has some bearing on the placement of
    concepts as symbols, as their principal aspects are refracted
    across the spectrum of sign modalities.

CSP: | I think we need to reflect upon the circumstance that every word
     | implies some proposition or, what is the same thing, every word,
     | concept, symbol has an equivalent term -- or one which has become
     | identified with it, -- in short, has an 'interpretant'.
     | Consider, what a word or symbol is;  it is a sort
     | of representation.  Now a representation is something
     | which stands for something.  ...  A thing cannot stand for
     | something without standing 'to' something 'for' that something.
     | Now, what is this that a word stands 'to'?  Is it a person?
     | We usually say that the word 'homme' stands to a Frenchman for 'man'.
     | It would be a little more precise to say that it stands 'to' the
     | Frenchman's mind -- to his memory.  It is still more accurate
     | to say that it addresses a particular remembrance or image
     | in that memory.  And what 'image', what remembrance?
     | Plainly, the one which is the mental equivalent of
     | the word 'homme' -- in short, its interpretant.
     | Whatever a word addresses then or 'stands to',
     | is its interpretant or identified symbol.  ...
     | The interpretant of a term, then, and that which it stands to
     | are identical.  Hence, since it is of the very essence of a symbol
     | that it should stand 'to' something, every symbol -- every word and
     | every 'conception' -- must have an interpretant -- or what is the
     | same thing, must have information or implication.  (CE 1, 466-467).
     | Charles Sanders Peirce, 'Chronological Edition', Volume 1, pages 466-467.

Peirce's Sop To Cerberus (1908)

JA: There is a critical passage where Peirce explains the relationship
    between his popular illustrations and his technical theory of signs.

CSP: | It is clearly indispensable to start with an accurate
     | and broad analysis of the nature of a Sign.  I define
     | a Sign as anything which is so determined by something
     | else, called its Object, and so determines an effect
     | upon a person, which effect I call its Interpretant,
     | that the latter is thereby mediately determined by
     | the former.  My insertion of "upon a person" is
     | a sop to Cerberus, because I despair of making
     | my own broader conception understood.
     | CSP, 'Selected Writings', page 404.
     | Charles Sanders Peirce, "Letters to Lady Welby", Chapter 24, pages 380-432,
     | in 'Charles S. Peirce: Selected Writings (Values in a Universe of Chance)',
     | Edited with Introduction and Notes by Philip P. Wiener, Dover Publications,
     | New York, NY, 1966.

Discussion History

French Interpreter's Memory

2000 • SUO List • Semiotics Formalization


Peirce's Sop To Cerberus

2001 • Ontology List • Sop To Cerberus


2001 • Arisbe List • Sop To Cerberus