Determine

The verb “determine”, used in both definitions, also needs to be well understood. It does not mean a dyadic action, of the “cause and effect” kind, in which the object acts first over the sign and, in the sequence, another dyadic action causes the sign to act producing an interpretant – as it happens with billiards balls that, being hit, bounce transferring momentum and energy from one another on a linear way. Peirce conceives the verb “determine” as being genuinely triadic. It has the same nature of the verb “give”. The act of giving demands that (1) someone gives, (2) something is given and (3) someone receives what is being given. They all happen simultaneously. Similarly, “determine” means the indecomposable synthesis among the object that determines sign and interpretant through its form, (2) the sign that is the carrier of this form, (3) and the interpretant that is the effect of the transmission of this form. This special kind of determination does not demand that the object have a delimited physical time-spatial reality either. The process of causation that Peirce defends is, as we know, essentially teleological, for it implies final causes capable of acting efficiently. In order for an object to determine an interpretant through a sign, it suffices that this object incorporate any number of general predicates, or laws in the conditional state (would be’s). A hygrometer can predict a storm because the dynamic object “storm” has certain general predicates such as “decrease of atmospheric pressure” and “increase of air humidity” that precedes it. These predicates comprise the Form or Information concerning the climatic phenomenon “storm”. A hygrometer indicates the imminence of a storm because this Form acts over the instrument producing an index (a needle that moves, a color that appears, etc.) This index, on the other hand, determines an interpretant so long as there is, on the interpreting part of the process, a familiarity with the functioning of the hygrometer. This familiarity, acquired by collateral experience, is capable of transforming the index into a metonymy (which is, as we will see further, a cognition). The Form would be, then, transmitted from the object to the interpretant by the sign (this example was given by Peirce himself in a letter to James; cf. EP2: 497).