Sign, Behavior and Pragmatics

Blyth, John. W. 1952. What is a Sign? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 13(1): 28-41.

In contemporary literature on the subject there is a bewildering variety of views concerning the basic types of signs. Only a few can be mentioned as illustrative. Ogden and Richards distinguished between referential and non-referential signs corresponding to the referential and emotive uses of signs. As Morris points out (S.L.B., p. 93) many of the subsequent distinctions stem from the distinction of Ogden and Richards. Reichenback distinguishes the cognitive usage of language grom its instrumental usage (cf. H. Reichenback, Elements of Symbolic Logic, New York, Macmillar, 1947, p. 17). Feigl draws a distinction between cognitive meanings with an informational function and noncognitive meanings with emotional expressiveness and an appeal function. Stevenson distinguishes cognitive meaning from, emotive meaning (cf. C. L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1944, pp. 59, 62). (Blyth 1952: 31)
This issue persists. Ogden and Richards' distinction sounds like Morris's distinction between signification (non-referential) and denotation (referential).
Signs and the people who use them are equally uncooperative. To the distress of many semanticists, for example, the same word is sometimes used to cause a cognition, sometimes to cause an emotion, and sometimes for both purposes at once. The result is that a classification ostensibly grounded on empirical observations of sign behavior turns into an exhortation to use signs in conformity with the semanticist's prescriptions. (Blyth 1952: 32)
Only element missing here from a Peircean scheme is "an action".
The word 'sign' is widely recognized as having two quite different senses. For example, each printing of the word 'sign' in this page is in one sense an instance of the use of the same word. With this meaning in the focus of attention a sign is sometimes defined as a class of similar instances. (Cf. Russell's definition of an object-word in An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, New York, Norton, 1940, p. 92.) In another sense each priting of the word 'sign' on this page functions directly as a sign. With this sense in mind it is said that "signs are physical things: ink marks on paper, chalk marks on a board, sound waves produced in a human throat" (cf. Reichenback, Elements of Symbolic Logic, p. 4).
Various terms are used to mark the distinction between these two senses. Morris for example distinguishes a 'sign-vehicle' from a 'sign-family' of which it is a member. Reichenback distinguishes between a 'token' and a class of 'tokens.' Once made, however, the distinction seems to be largely ignored. (Blyth 1952: 35)
Yet again Peirce was way ahead of these guys with his distinction between qualisign, sinsign (token) and legisign (type).
It was indicated above that a sign should be considered as an entity which has particular 'tokens' as instances and determines a class of such 'tokens' but is itself neither a particular physical thing nor a class of particulars. Fortunately an entity of just this kind has become familiar in modern science and logic and is readily used by men of widely different philosophical persuasions. That entity is known as a 'variable'. A variable may have a range of many different particular 'values.' Thus if the word 'sign' is considered as a variable each 'token' or 'sign-vehicle' which is a particular printing of uttering of the word is a value of that variable. The class of 'tokens' or the 'sign-family' determined by that variable is the class of all such values. (Blyth 1952: 37)
That's a neat idea. Makes me ponder if perhaps I should use the formulations of HTML and CSS to conduct my semiotic analyses.

Kattsoff, L. O. 1948. What is Behavior? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 9(1): 98-102.

A good deal of the impetus to the theory of signs came from philosophical circles, especially the development of logical positivism under Schlick. It was Schlick's article on "Meaning and Verification" that started a lengthy discussion that has not yet terminated. Schhlick's thesis simply and perhaps loosely stated was that the meaning of a sentence say in its verification. Later discussion brought about a more specific statement to the effect that meaning consists in possible verification. To put it another way, the meaning of a sentence consisted in what you would do to verify the sentence. In other words, the meaning of a sentence consisted in the behavior to which it gives rise. Unfortunately for such a definition of meaning, persons do not always obviously do something. (Kattsoff 1948: 98)
Friedrich Albert Moritz Schlick, the founder of logical positivism, gave a good deal of impetus to the theory of signs? Why haven't I heard about him then? Maybe it's because this connection between meaning and behaviour does not make sense.
"Every sign involves behavior, for a sign must have an interpretant and an interpretant is a disposition to a response" (p. 187). And again, signs are said "to control behavior in the way something else would exercise control if it were present" (p. 95). So if signs are referred to behavior, the classification of signs could be based upon a classification of types of behavior which they tend to produce. This is what Morris actually attempts to do. (Kattsoff 1948: 98)
I'm not sure if "types of discourse" is equal to "types of behavior".
Morris (p. 30) recognizes much of what I have said but insists that "interpretant" is more "scientific" than "idea" even though "'idea' and 'interpretant' may in fact be synonymous signs." As a matter of fact it appears to me that sincie the only way one can, in a human being, determine whether or not there is an interpretant is exactly the way we can decide whether or not there is an idea - i.e., by asking him and listening to his reply - the two signs express precisely the same idea. It is difficult to see why, except by definition, the sounds uttered by a person are not as good evidence that to him a certain bell means food, as is his beginning to salivate. In the case of dogs, perhaps we have no reason for asserting the existence of ideas as criteria of signs, but surely sign behavior in humans is of greater complexity than that of dogs. (Kattsoff 1948: 100)
Maybe because sely-observations and self-reports are unreliable? There are many sign-processes that can't be elucidated by asking about them.

Spiegelberg, Herbert 1956. Husserl's and Peirce's Phenomenologies: Coincidence on Interaction. Philosophy and Phenomenology Research 17(2): 164-185.

Until the late thirties, Phenomenology in today's sense of the term was for American philosophy a "foreign affair." To this generalization there is only one possible exception: the phenomenology of Charles Sanders Peirce. True, the mere absence of the word from the works of other American philosophers does not prove the absence of the thing so designated. Thus the psychology of William James and the philosophy of George Santayana contain many phenomenological ingredients without the trademark. On the other hand, the mere presence of the name "phenomenology" in Peirce's writings constitutes no guarantee that it meant the same thing to him as it did to Edmund Husserl. (Spiegelberg 1956: 164)
I'm afraid phenomenology will remain a foreign affair for me as well, as I don't yet see the value of phenomenology. I do, on the other hand, respect the psychology of William James, although I have yet to read his writings directly.
In 1906, in his Göttingen lectures on the Idee der Phänomenologie, Husserl, under the influence of Descartes' method of doubt, introduced for the first time his method of "reduction" or bracketing, which demanded the suspension of all belief in the existence of the world of our naive experience. In due course this led to the development of a phenomenological idealism, which became manifest first in the Ideen of 1913 and assumed even more radical form later on. (Spiegelberg 1956: 167)
This must be the "doxastic disengagement" in his 1911 lectures. I, still, do not see the value of this move.
The basic category in Peirce's phenomenology is Firstness. However, though pivotal to the whole scheme, it is far from easy to understand, since it is actually "the most elusive" of the categories. Firstness, according to Peirce's chief characterization, consists in "Qualities" or "Qualities of Feeling." Without discussing ambiguities of this term, one had best consider its denotation which, while of "myriad-fold variety" includes such items as redness, an odor, "an infinite dead ache," and nobleness. (5.44) Thus Firstnesses seem to coincide chiefly with what are usually called 'data,' although not only with sense data. (Spiegelberg 1956: 169)
Firstness is "a fuzzy feeling" (karvane tunne).
"Firstness precedes all synthesis and all differentiation; it has no unity and no parts. It cannot be articulately thought; assert it, and it has already lost its innocence; for assertion always implies the denial of something else. ... Remember that every description of it must be false to it. (CP 1.357)
This sounds a lot like my vague ideas about nonverbal ethics: "intervening" with concourse into the flow of conversation is anything but innocent. Maybe it is because of a stigma or a false idea that discourse pure and true is not about the here and now. Thus referring to our bodies brings us back into that "lower bodily stratum" of brute existence. That is, it is perfectly innocent to "read body language" or interpret facial expressions and gestures, but as soon as you assert something about it, you have committed a miniature crime. I detest this idea but I cannot shake it. Right now it feels like a vestige of the medieval or Christian negation of bodies (kehaeitus).
Thus, when he advanced the program of phenomenology as a science in his Lectures on Pragmatism of 1903, he merely stressed the need for the student of phenomenology - in the letter to James of October 3, 1904, he called him actually the "phenomenologist" - to develop the following three qualities:
(1)"Seeing what stares one in the face, just as it presents itself, unreplaced by any interpretation, unsophisticated by any allowance for this or that modifying circumstance;"
(2) "resolute discrimination, which fastens itself like a bulldog upon the particular features that we are studying;" and
(3) "the generalizing power of the mathematician who produces the abstract formula that comprehends the very essence of the feature under examination purified from all admixture of extraneous and irrelevant accompaniments." (CP 5.42)
I can think of few, if any, passages in Husserl's writings in which the primary requirements of the phenomenological approach are states with equal impressiveness. (Spiegelberg 1956: 170)
Looked at closely, these three categories should sound very familiar to anyone familiar with the triad of qualisigns, sinsigns and legisigns. (1) you see or experience something; (2) you respond to it as a particular instance or token of something; (3) you generalize it into a symbol, a type, a class that so-to-say "captures it". For me too this is much more clearer than Husserl's lengthy discussions of whatever it is he is discussing. If I were to attempt my Fenomenilogi, I'd prefer Peirce's phaneroscopy as a source of inspiration.
Peirce's main injustice to the phenomenologist is to look at what is "before our minds," at "what stares one in the face." It is therefore not surprising that his findings consist purely of such qualities as colors, rarely, if ever, of items like consciousness or acts such as seeing or hearing, but never of the "mind" itself, an entity of rather uncertain status in Peirce's whole philosophizing. (Spiegelberg 1956: 172)
I'd imagine this type of looking to be of the Ouspenskyan type wherein you shut off (or try to shut off, at any rate) everything in your "mind" and instead look and feel what is around to you (what "presents" itself to you).
Apparently, when Peirce speaks of Firstness as "qualities of feeling," he never distinguishes between the quality felt and the feeling of a quality. Thus it is not surprising that he lists among his Firstness the color of magneta side by side with the quality of emotion upon contemplating a fine mathematical demonstration, the quality of the feeling of love, etc. (1.304) In fact, in his "Objective Logic" (6.221) Peirce goes so far as to say that "a quality is a consciousness" and speaks subsequently of a "quale-consciousness," which he illustrates by sense-data such as redness. Here Peirce simply shares the monistic conception of phenomena, which can also be found in Ernst Mach and in the radical empiricism of the later William James. (Spiegelberg 1956: 173)
Awareness. Teadvus ja teadlikkus.
In contrast, Peirce's scrupulous ethics of terminology not only forbade him to adopt terms which had been in use for different designata, but induced him to abandon them when they were being misused by others. Thus, quoting once more from the letter to James of October 3, 1904, Peirce, after taking James to task for his use of the term "pure experience," and recommending to him again his choice "phenomenology" states:
"It is downright bad morals so to misuse words, for it prevents philosophy from becoming a science ... it is an indispensable requisite of science that it should have a recognized technical vocabulary composed of words so unattractive that loose thinkers are not tempted to use them, and a recognized and legitimate way of making up new words freely when a new conception is introduced, and that it is vital for science that he who introduces a new conception should be held to have a duty imposed upon him to invent a sufficiently disagreeable series of words to express it. I wish you would reflect seriously upon the moral aspect of terminology.
It is well known how this strngent ethics made Peirce, when "finding his bantling 'pragmaticsm' wrongly promoted" (to wit, by James and Schiller)... [relinquish the word pragmatism and replace it with pragmaticism] (Spiegelberg 1956: 176)
Hahahahahha. Peirce, you crack me up. This is exactly what I have done, especially with semiophrenia and somatoception. I adopted nonverbalism from a loose thinker and concourse from a serious thinker (who, nevertheless, didn't do much with it). All of these terms are as unattractive as they are disagreeable. // On second thought I now wonder if I should dispense with concourse, because it's a common word in French, and replace it with something more suitable (that is, more "disagreeable").
It was probably in the early years of the new century that Peirce, having developed his conception of a science of categories in the nineties, also began looking for an appropriate label for it. About the same time he came to think that his tradic pattern of categories was so similar to Hegel's scheme that he called his own philosophy a "variety of Hegelianism" (5.38) and a "resuscitation of Hegel, though in a strange costume" (1.42) - this despite the fact that he confessed to his original antipathy and even to his feelings of repulsion toward Hegel. Thus it may well have been this new interest in Hegel which gave him the idea that Hegel's term "phenomenology" could be used without undue violence for the common doctrine of categories, although the equivalent of what Peirce interprets as Hegel's categories actually occurs in Hegel's Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Part I), rather than in the Phenomenology of the Spirit. In adopting it, he was probably guided more by the literal meaning of the term "phenomenology", as "a description or history of phenomena" (see, for instance, the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia VI (1891), p. 4441), than by Hegel's much more restricted use in the third part of the Enzyklopädie, translated by Wallace two years later in a separate volume (Hegel's Philosophy of Mind). (Spiegelberg 1956: 176-177)
I am sure that my own repulsion towards certain thinkers may equally be merely temporary. There is always a chance that I can overcome the barriers that keep me from believing or appreciating certain ideas and approaches. Here, the literal meaning of phenomenology seems similar to the original meaning of ideology as the science of ideas (Destutt de Tracy).
Peirce tells Lady Welby in his long epistle of October 12, 1904, which deals with the theory of signs, of the need of a study, namely "ideoscopy," which is to consist in "describing and classifying the ideas that belong to ordinary experience or that naturally arise in connection with ordinary life, without regard to their being valid or invalid or to their psychology." (Spiegelberg 1956: 179)
Something for the semiotics of everyday life.
The new term 'phaneron,' of which Peirce freely uses the plural form 'phonerons,' in contrast to his merely singular use of 'phenomenon,' is defined as "the collective total of all that is in any way or in any sense present to the mind, quite regardless of whether it corresponds to any real thing or not" (1.284); which is of course identical in substance with his earlier descriptions of the "phenomenon." Actually, the literal meaning of the Greek term suggests more than a mere "phenomenon" (which merely appears), namely something that reveals itself in its real nature; what Peirce means is described much better by the English word "seemings" or appearances. (Spiegelberg 1956: 180)
There are so many open ended questions about phaneroscopy I cannot even begin to pose them. Presently, I'll just note that Peirce, like Uexküll, Lotman and countless other semioticians, created a new holistic concept. This seems to be a disease among semioticians.
Besides, on the very same page, there appear lengthy additions to the brief entry "phenomenology" of the original volume, presumably at least in part prepared by Peirce. They consist of two more meanings, namely Kant's, taken from Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, and Hegel's, now clearly based on his Phänomenologie des Geistes. These are followed by five further distinctions in small print. The first of these reads "Cenopythagorean phenomenology," described as "universal phenomenology as it is understood by those who recognize the categories of firstness, secodness, and thirdness." (Spiegelberg 1956: 181)
And from the footnotes:
An entry under "Cenopythagorean" identifies this kind of Neo-pythagoreanism as "pertaining to a modern doctrine which resembles Pythagoreanism in accepting universal categories that are related to and are named after numbers." A manuscript using the same adjectives, entitled "Reflections upon Pluralistic Pragmatism and upon Cenopythagorean Pragmaticism," dated as c. 1906, is referred to in Collected Papers 5.555-5.563; see alse 2.87. (Spiegelberg 1956: 181ff)
The author makes this seem almost conspiratorial. It is relevant that Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness are not Peirce's "Phenomenological categories" as some writers in the Transactions claim, but exactly "Cenopythagorean categories". Even wikipedia recognizes this (thanks to the efforts of User:Ling.Nut3).

George, F. H. 1956. Pragmatics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 17(2): 226-235.

Morris and Behavioral Semiotic is our first case. Morris explicitly aimed to build a natural science of signs. As he avers, any inquiry about existing signs will obviously be carried out in part by signs not analized within that inquiry, and the inquiry itself involves the analysis of signs. Morris chooses to start from such unanalyzed signs as 'organism,' 'muscle,' 'reaction,' etc., and these are the terms familiar to a behavioral inquiry. It will also be agreed that these terms are more or less well-chosen according to their subsequent use, and depend upon some previous agreement as to their use. (George 1956: 227)
I wouldn't conduct "a behavioral inquiry", and both 'organism' and 'reaction' seem somewhat unsuitable for my purposes, but I do feel the need to sprinkle more talk of muscles into my final work. After all, the physical sign-vehicles of nonverbal communication are greatly involved with muscles.
"His body is ugly and decrepit, but he is good and wise." This sort of sentence leads Pap to reject outright any attempt to identify behavior and mind. The more subtle appreach of Physicalism as recommended by Carnap, is to then discuss and a form of reductionism is suggested that leads one to reduce all psychological statements to physical statements, and, of course, suggests the use of dispositional predicates, and the reduction sentences of 'Testability and meaning.' (George 1956: 230)
"'My face may be ugly,' I thought, 'but let it be lofty, expressive, and, above all, extremely intelligent.'" (Dostoyevsky 1992[1864]: 30) ǩ
It is true of course that much of early behaviorism was crude and illphrased (much of science indeed still suffers from lack of linguistic sopihistication) and the idea that 'mind' = 'behavior' in any sense sounds extremely crude. No one would surely assert that 'love' is 'excessive secretion of glands,' although no doubt the use of the word 'love' refers to states that are partially made up of such secretions. (George 1956: 231)
Rather, some behaviours are a manifestation of a mind. But this is equally crude if not more so.
Perhaps most important of all we may hope to understand more clearly the problem of meaning by reference to the inter-behavioral situation. It is quite clear that languages emerged as a part of behavior and it is fairly well-known that part of the difficulty of conveying the meaning of sentences lies in the fact that the context of its use is accompanied by othe rbehavior signs. Thus if X says:
to you, you may regard this as completely without meaning and indeed it is hardly a sentence, at best sharthand for some such sentence: as
"There is a wolf coming."
If this is indeed the intended meaning then we can only judge it by reference to the non-verbal aspects of the situation. The sign, if sign it be, depends for its significance on The look of terror etc. on the speaker's face. It is, of course, a commonplace that gesture, inflection, etc. impart much of the meaning to our ordinary usage. This seems to me to be one good reason for doubting that a formalization of language without reference to the language users can capture the whole of what is the intended meaning of linguistic usage. (George 1956: 234)
Jakobson calls such shorthands holophrases and the meaning of these utterances does hinge largely on "the nonverbalized context" (as Jakobson calls it) or simply "other behavior signs" such as facial expression, gesture or inflection. The case of the "Wolf!" is elsewhere (in Wittgenstein or someone) exemplified by a "Fox!" or "Moon."

Alston, William P. 1956. Pragmatism and the Theory of Signs in Peirce. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 17(1): 79-88.

And this is just what pragmatism amounts to - a more specific semiotic theory. Although the first canonical statement of the Pragmatic Principle in "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" (5.388-410) does not use the term 'meaning,' but instead states (to put it succinctly) that the concept of any object is the concept of its effects which are relevant to our conduct, nevertheless even here the principle is, at least implicitly and by implication, a theory of meaning. For any limitation on the concepts we can form carries wit hit a correlative limitation on the verbal expressions which can be used to express concepts, i.e., on the expressions which will be counted as cognitively meaningful; and to say that all concepts are concepts of practically relevant effects is to say that the cognitive meaning of any expression can be explicated in terms of such effects. (Alston 1956: 80)
Alas pragmatics sounds like what I'm trying to get at with my clubfooted "regulative function of communication" - very generally, that signs have an effect on human conduct.
Now if we look in this scheme for some element which could be called the meaning of a sign, we see that the interpretant is what would be called the meaning, in one important sense of that term. For example, if someone asks me the meaning of a word I have just used, say 'numinous,' I will reply by saying it means the capacity to arouse such feelings as awe, fascination, and mysterious dread, and to evoke a response of worship. What I have done is to supply another sign of the same object which interprets the first, i.e., I have supplied an interpretant in the Peircean sense. Again if someone asks me what I mean by a given assertion, e.g., "The greatest human achievements are ambivalent," I might reply that what I meant was that the same achievements in science, art, technology, etc., which most fully express the glory of man's estate, also constitute the strongest temptations for self-deification, which in turn results in a fall from that estate. Again what I have done is to provide an interpretant of the first expression, i.e., an expression which roughly has the same reference, and which develops or elaborates that reference. Thus it would be quite appropriate to say, in terms of Peirce's theory, that the meaning of a sign is its interpretant. (Alston 1956: 81)
This is the closest approximation of Jakobson's notion of intralingual translation (or simply circumlocution) I've met thus far. I wouldn't agree off the bat with the statement that the meaning of a sign is its interpretant, because at the moment I prefer the version wherein the meaning of the sign consists of the signs it may be connected to in representation by subsequent semiosis. Maybe these formulations aren't even different, but at the moment I can't vouch for interpretants (the notion still remains vague).
The pragmatic principle does not rule out the possibility of interpretants other than those detailing practical consequences. It merely locates the cognitive meaning of the sign in this sort of interpretant, i.e., requires that whatever other sorts of interpretants the sign have, it also be capable of having one which spells out practical consequences. (Alston 1956: 82ff)
Equally, whatever other sorts of effects communication may have, it is also capable of having one that regulates the behaviour of the communicators. Damn this is vague.
Unfortunately this principle provides us no effective means of distinguishing genuine from spurious semiosis. For it is clear that I can respond to a meaningless string of symbols by uttering another set of equally meaningless symbols as a purported interpretant for the first, and this second set can in turn receive an ostensible interpretation from a third equally senseless expression, and so on as long as you like. (Alston 1956: 84)
This was exactly what happened when I read J. A.'s exposition on Bloom's anxiety of influence and later on something similar occurred with J. G. with whom it seems pointless to argue, but quite fun to spout the same nonsense, knowing full-well that it is nonsense.


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