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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 6: The Index


6.1. Nature and Functions of Indices

The second class of signs introduced in the New List, the Index, underwent essential developments in the following decades. A real turning point is marked by the introduction of quantifiers in the 80s, as it was already shown speaking about Peirce’s logic.495 Quantifiers are devices designed to select individuals or group of indivisuals from a given class; it serves therefore to give an extension to the formula which falls under its scope.496 Therefore, in a quantified expression we have a ‘core’ part, the predicate, which expresses a certain relation, and the quantifier which expresses to which individuals the relation is to be applied.

After the whole Boolean school had for thirty years been puzzling over the problem of how to take account of this distinction [i.e. between “some” and “all”] in their notation, without any satisfactory result, Mr. Mitchell, by a wonderfully clear intuition, points out that what is needed is to enclose the whole Boolean expression in brackets, and to indicate to what proportion of the universe it refers by exterior signs.497

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