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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 15, 2019

Charles S. Peirce’s sign typology of 1903 and the semeiotic of universe, man, and culture

  • Bent Sørensen , Torkild Thellefsen EMAIL logo , Martin Thellefsen and Amalia Nurma Dewi
From the journal Semiotica


This article offers an interpretation of Peirce’s pan-semeiotic view of the universe. According to Peirce, the entire universe is composed of signs or processes of signification (see for example CP 5.448 footnote). The consequence of this can be seen as twofold: processes of signification have a naturalistic foundation and the universe has an inherent semeiotic character. Peirce understands the universe as depending on the relationship between things, which can become signs and signs, can only become interpreted by other signs and so on ad infinitum (CP 8.191; see also Fisch 1986). Furthermore, man himself is a symbol, says Peirce, and, of course, the cultures of which he is a member must also be interpenetrated and work by the logic of signs. Hence, universe, man, and culture come together because of the sign relation having a rationale in a strong ontology. Or put in other words: Peirce’s sign is truly general and ontological and he sees continuity wherever he looks and for him there is no absolute separation between the processes of the universe, the existence of man, and culture mediating between the first mentioned. Peirce himself did not, however, to the best of our knowledge, explicitly unfold this semeiotic relationship between universe, man, and culture, and the aim of the following is to show a glimpse of this semeiotic relationship also remembering, to some extent, the ontological rationale it purports to yield with its metaphysical synechism. We see the glimpse of the relationship between universe, man, and culture from Peirce’s three sign trichotomies of 1903 where we find some of his most mature thoughts concerning semeiotic.


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Published Online: 2019-03-15
Published in Print: 2019-05-07

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