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Philosophy of Education in the Semiotics of Charles Peirce

A Cosmology of Learning and Loving

Alin Olteanu

This book investigates the philosophy of education implicit in the semiotics of Charles Peirce. It is commonly accepted that the acts of learning and teaching imply affection of some sort, and Charles Peirce’s evolutionary semiotics thoroughly explains learning as an act of love. According to Peirce, we evolved to learn and to love; learning from other people has proved to be one of the best ways to carry out our infinite pursuit of truth, since love is the very characteristic of truth. As such, the teacher and the student practise love in their relation with one another.
Grounded within an edusemiotics framework and also exploring the iconic turn in semiotics and recent developments in biosemiotics, this is the first book-length study of Peirce’s contribution to the philosophy of education.
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The argument developed in this book is that personal love is the foundation and rationale of education. Because education is a means to enhance learning towards proper research, it needs to follow the teleological evolution of the Universe of signs.

The principles of the modes of evolution, in Peirce’s semiotic account, are chance, necessity, and love. At first, we learn by chance, iconically. Further on, out of chance, learning proves necessary, and so we focus on learning specific matters. This indexicality proves to be a struggle, an effort. Its results are often unexpected. The struggle of necessity and the determination of chance and necessity are transcended by the principle of love. Love is the only principle of growth (Chapter 6, CP 2.287), and it is liberating. Growth is best expressed by personality (Chapter 5, Section C, CP 6.157), as agapism, the principle of evolutionary love, has its expression among personalities (Chapter 8, CP 6.288). An agapic student/teacher relation is understood, in Peirce’s terms, as Argument. Thus, learning is the passage from Icon to Argument. If the teacher does not accept the student’s icons, learning is artificially imposed and it becomes an empty formalism. Its structures of signification can be described as iconless symbols. If the student does not accept the teacher’s indices, learning remains spontaneous and it might become idle. The mediation of chance and necessity is the personal engagement with the other. It is the going out of the self, which we refer to...

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