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Telos and Object

The relation between sign and object as a teleological relation in the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce


Luca Russo

The semiotics of Charles S. Peirce is conceived as an essential part of a comprehensive philosophical outlook. The study of signs is carried on for its bearing on the knowledge of reality; therefore the relation of signs to objects is the core concern of Peirce’s semiotics. This study looks at this question on the background of Peirce’s philosophical system, individuating in the theories of reality and of knowledge the key issues which allow a philosophically grounded definition of the sign-object relation. The concepts of teleology and of final cause reveal themselves to be the essential conception which emerges from these two issues. The underlying teleological tendencies in the use of signs justify their gnoseological reliableness.

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Chapter 1: The Foundations of Peirce’s Semiotics


1.1. On a New List of Categories: The Cradle of Semiotics

Peircean semiotics found its origin in a several of texts written in the 60s. The first explicit theory of signs is expressed in the Harvard Lectures held in 1865. Improvements were presented in the Lowell Lectures held the following year, while the first systematic treatment of semiotics is presented in the paper On a New List of Categories published in 1867.201

In the Harvard Lectures the analysis of sign is undertaken as a consequence of logical concerns: it deals in fact with the instruments of logical thought (namely, the symbols).

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