Ideas as Signs

Begins 1:11pm

“Ideas are the first logical interpretants of the phenomenon that suggest them.” (p165)  This assertion returns us to the ‘vast problem’ of perception as interpretation of sensory disconnected data.  When confronted with experience we arrange and make sense of data through what Eco describes as a ‘complex transactional process’ that allows the formulation of a hypothesis that is based on previous experience.

Eco, Pierce and Goodenough [can’t help but giggle when I reprint, or say his name] share the view that ‘ideas are signs’.

[SS Is his name a sign that Eco’s theory of semiotics is goodenough for him?]

[OS Oblique humour.  Glad it feels funny to you.]

There are not only contemporary, but historical, roots to Eco’s proposition that ‘ideas are already a semiotic product’. (p166)  The entire history of philosophical tradition associates linguistic meaning with perceptual meaning.  Eco uses Husserl’s assertion that ‘knowing is a dynamic act’.  To name and recognise are the same process.

[SS Do you know who Husserl is?]

[OS No.  Either we both weren’t paying attention, or this is the first time he has been dropped into the text.  We can look him up.]

[SS I admit I lost the train of thought when we had to reset the TV so it could be viewed by 81 yr old soap lover.  Really borderline soap addict, but that’s a judgement not necessarily relevant to this chat.  And, it’s a distraction from the confusing attempts to figure out who Husserl is?  Anyway we don’t have to explain him, isn’t it ‘goodenough’ that Eco did!  So funny.]

[OS That’s Enough of the wise-cracks! There is a huge gap between wise-cracks and wit, and both are a long way from wisdom.]

Although Eco illustrates the long philosophical history supporting his claim that ‘ideas are signs’, he acknowledges that the extent to which the idea of meaning agrees with the semiotic notion of cultural unit is a study requiring further depths.  Depths that signify ‘another of semiotics limits’. (p167)

[SS Are we back in one of Eco’s circles again?  Do you notice the way Eco has organised his Theory in chunks of analysis.  For example, he ends one point in a neat paragraph and often without resolution, and then continues his analysis with a new paragraphed and numbered section.  Two and a half pages closed off with “This is not the place to study this in greater depth”, then begins with a new title: 3.3.5 /Is/ as a metalinguistic device. And we have to keep up with his analysis and follow him?]

[OS Yes I do notice.  But follow him we must.]

To recognise something, for example /cat/, presupposes a previous semiotic process.  I recognise a cat as a cat because I apply an idea or concept to it.  There is already a perceived semiotic component to the object being referred. The example of referring /This is/ suggests a comparison between two semiotic objects:  “the content of a linguistic expression with the content of a perceptual act.” (p168) The coupla  /Is/ is a metalinguistic sign meaning <possesses some of the semantic properties of>.  The process of comparing the semantic properties of the linguistic expression and the perceptual act can either be accepted or refused.

So, Eco claims, semiotic index-sensitive judgements are clear:  A cat is a cat.  But the nature of ‘factual’ index sensitive judgments remain obscure.  For example, adding the property ‘one-eye’ to the exampled mentioned cat leaves ‘wandering’ properties and points to a host of free variants.  But predicating new properties cannot be incompatible with its type.  It is possible that the cat can have one eye, but /a one-eyed pencil/ is not an acceptable factual sensitive judgement.

The difficulty arises when the added property is close enough to have possible merit, but not established in the code.  Eco uses the example of a four foot long cat.  After checking the truth of what I see (not just assigning inappropriate words to the living expression); checking if the cat was mistaken for another member of the cat family, like a panther; I would have to reformulate the factual statement from /this cat is four feet long/ to /some cats are four feet long/, “after which, by means of a meta-semiotic judgement, I can change the code.”

[SS Well there is a lot of code changing and code breaking going on around Polo.  At the moment he has reached the judgement after witnessing Myrtle’s slaughter that humans are cruel.  He has also reached a limit – he is stuck and desperate for death.]

Ends 2:15pm

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