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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 9: The Different Forms of Interpretant


9.1. Introduction

The last chapter showed how Peirce has dealt with the difference between the understanding of a sign in a given situation and its significance in a teleological process; more precisely, how he reached this result by distinguishing between the Object which is spoken about (the dynamic Object) and the Object as it is spoken about (the immediate Object). However, this constitutes just one side of the question. The other side is contained in his treatment of the Interpretant. It was already showed how the concept of Interpretant expresses the significance of a sign. However, this ‘significance’ comes to include many aspects, many different ways in which a sign can be significant; these many ways can be unified only on a highly formal level. The multiplicity of functions which the concept of ‘interpretant’ can concretely fulfil puzzles many interpreters of Peirce’s thought and puzzled Peirce himself. Therefore, he distinguished among different kinds of Interpretants.775

It remains to point out that there are usually two Objects, and more than two Interpretants.776

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