Interpreter and Interpretant

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Jon Awbrey

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Jan 27, 2024, 2:08:20 PMJan 27
to Conceptual Graphs, Cybernetic Communications, Laws of Form, Structural Modeling, SysSciWG
Interpreter and Interpretant • Selection 1
http://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2024/01/27/interpreter-and-interpretant-selection-1/

All,

Questions about the relation between “interpreters” and “interpretants”
in Peircean semiotics have broken out again. To put the matter as
pointedly as possible, because I know someone or other is bound to —
In a theory of three‑place relations among objects, signs, and
interpretant signs, where indeed is there any place for the
interpretive agent?

By way of getting my feet on the ground with the issue I'll do
what always helped me before and review a small set of basic texts.
Here is the first.

Figure 1. The Sign Relation in Aristotle
https://inquiryintoinquiry.files.wordpress.com/2022/04/awbrey-awbrey-1995-e280a2-figure-1.png

❝Words spoken are symbols or signs (symbola) of affections or impressions
(pathemata) of the soul (psyche); written words are the signs of words
spoken. As writing, so also is speech not the same for all races of men.
But the mental affections themselves, of which these words are primarily
signs (semeia), are the same for the whole of mankind, as are also the
objects (pragmata) of which those affections are representations or
likenesses, images, copies (homoiomata).❞ (De Interp. i. 16a4).

References —

Aristotle, “On Interpretation” (De Interp.), Harold P. Cooke (trans.),
pp. 111–179 in Aristotle, Volume 1, Loeb Classical Library, William
Heinemann, London, UK, 1938.

Awbrey, J.L., and Awbrey, S.M. (1995), “Interpretation as Action : The Risk
of Inquiry”, Inquiry : Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 15(1), 40–52.
https://web.archive.org/web/20001210162300/http://chss.montclair.edu/inquiry/fall95/awbrey.html
https://www.pdcnet.org/inquiryct/content/inquiryct_1995_0015_0001_0040_0052
https://www.academia.edu/1266493/Interpretation_as_Action_The_Risk_of_Inquiry
https://www.academia.edu/57812482/Interpretation_as_Action_The_Risk_of_Inquiry

Regards,

Jon

cc: https://www.academia.edu/community/5wYa3L
cc: https://mathstodon.xyz/@Inquiry/111829392534115897

Jon Awbrey

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Jan 28, 2024, 3:45:17 PMJan 28
to Conceptual Graphs, Cybernetic Communications, Laws of Form, Structural Modeling, SysSciWG
Interpreter and Interpretant • Selection 2
https://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2024/01/28/interpreter-and-interpretant-selection-2/

All,

In the next passage up for review the hypostatic abstraction
of a person to conduct the movement of signs is described by
Peirce as a Sop to Cerberus, a rhetorical gambit set to
side‑step a persistent difficulty of exposition.

❝It is clearly indispensable to start with an accurate and broad
analysis of the nature of a Sign. I define a Sign as anything which
is so determined by something else, called its Object, and so determines
an effect upon a person, which effect I call its Interpretant, that the
latter is thereby mediately determined by the former. My insertion of
“upon a person” is a sop to Cerberus, because I despair of making my own
broader conception understood.❞ (Peirce 1908, Selected Writings, p. 404).

Reference —

Peirce, C.S. (1908), “Letters to Lady Welby”, Chapter 24, pp. 380–432
in Charles S. Peirce : Selected Writings (Values in a Universe of Chance),
Edited with Introduction and Notes by Philip P. Wiener, Dover Publications,
New York, NY, 1966.

Resource —

Hypostatic Abstraction
https://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2008/08/08/hypostatic-abstraction/

Regards,

Jon

cc: https://www.academia.edu/community/54qeRV
cc: https://mathstodon.xyz/@Inquiry/111829392534115897

Jon Awbrey

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Jan 30, 2024, 4:00:19 PMJan 30
to Conceptual Graphs, Cybernetic Communications, Laws of Form, Structural Modeling, SysSciWG
Interpreter and Interpretant • Selection 3
http://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2024/01/30/interpreter-and-interpretant-selection-3/

All,

The following selection from Peirce's “Lowell Lectures
on the Logic of Science” (1866) lays out in detail his
“metaphorical argument” for the relationship between
interpreters and interpretant signs.

❝I think we need to reflect upon the circumstance that every word
implies some proposition or, what is the same thing, every word,
concept, symbol has an equivalent term — or one which has become
identified with it, — in short, has an “interpretant”.

❝Consider, what a word or symbol is; it is a sort of representation.
Now a representation is something which stands for something. I will not
undertake to analyze, this evening, this conception of standing for something —
but, it is sufficiently plain that it involves the standing to something for
something. A thing cannot stand for something without standing to something
for that something. Now, what is this that a word stands to? Is it a person?

❝We usually say that the word “homme” stands to a Frenchman for “man”.
It would be a little more precise to say that it stands to the Frenchman's
mind — to his memory. It is still more accurate to say that it addresses
a particular remembrance or image in that memory. And what “image”, what
remembrance? Plainly, the one which is the mental equivalent of the word
“homme” — in short, its interpretant. Whatever a word addresses then or
stands to, is its interpretant or identified symbol. …

❝The interpretant of a term, then, and that which it stands to are identical.
Hence, since it is of the very essence of a symbol that it should stand to
something, every symbol — every word and every “conception” — must have an
interpretant — or what is the same thing, must have information or implication.❞
(Peirce 1866, Chronological Edition 1, pp. 466–467).

Reference —

Peirce, C.S. (1866), “The Logic of Science, or, Induction and Hypothesis”,
Lowell Lectures of 1866, pp. 357–504 in Writings of Charles S. Peirce :
A Chronological Edition, Volume 1, 1857–1866, Peirce Edition Project,
Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1982.

Resource —

Hypostatic Abstraction
https://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2008/08/08/hypostatic-abstraction/

Regards,

Jon

cc: https://www.academia.edu/community/LmDEeV
cc: https://mathstodon.xyz/@Inquiry/111829392534115897

Jon Awbrey

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Jan 31, 2024, 6:00:25 PMJan 31
to Conceptual Graphs, Cybernetic Communications, Laws of Form, Structural Modeling, SysSciWG
Interpreter and Interpretant • Selection 4
http://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2024/01/31/interpreter-and-interpretant-selection-4/

Interpretation and Inquiry —

To illustrate the role of sign relations in inquiry
we begin with Dewey's elegant and simple example of
reflective thinking in everyday life.

❝A man is walking on a warm day. The sky was clear the last time
he observed it; but presently he notes, while occupied primarily
with other things, that the air is cooler. It occurs to him that
it is probably going to rain; looking up, he sees a dark cloud
between him and the sun, and he then quickens his steps.

❝What, if anything, in such a situation can be called thought?
Neither the act of walking nor the noting of the cold is a thought.
Walking is one direction of activity; looking and noting are other
modes of activity. The likelihood that it will rain is, however,
something suggested. The pedestrian feels the cold; he thinks of
clouds and a coming shower.❞ (John Dewey, How We Think, 6–7)

In Dewey's narrative we can identify the characters of the sign relation
as follows. Coolness is a Sign of the Object rain, and the Interpretant
is the thought of the rain's likelihood. In his description of reflective
thinking Dewey distinguishes two phases, “a state of perplexity, hesitation,
doubt” and “an act of search or investigation” (p. 9), comprehensive stages
which are further refined in his later model of inquiry.

Reflection is the action the interpreter takes to establish a fund
of connections between the sensory shock of coolness and the objective
danger of rain by way of the impression rain is likely. But reflection
is more than irresponsible speculation. In reflection the interpreter
acts to charge or defuse the thought of rain by seeking other signs the
thought implies and evaluating the thought according to the results of
that search.

Figure 2 shows the semiotic relationships involved in Dewey's story, tracing
the structure and function of the sign relation as it informs the activity of
inquiry, including both the movements of surprise explanation and intentional
action. The labels on the outer edges of the sign‑relational triple suggest
the significance of signs for eventual occurrences and the correspondence of
ideas with external orientations. But there is nothing essential about the
dyadic role distinctions they imply, as it is only in special or degenerate
cases that such projections preserve enough information to determine the
original sign relation.

Figure 2. Dewey's “Sign of Rain” Example
https://inquiryintoinquiry.files.wordpress.com/2022/04/deweys-sign-of-rain-example.jpg

References —

Dewey, J. (1910), How We Think, D.C. Heath, Boston, MA.
Reprinted (1991), Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/37423/37423-h/37423-h.htm
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Dewey's Sign of Rain Example.jpg
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