Sign

In his relentless search for a precise definition of sign, Peirce produced at least 76 attempts (as shown by Robert Marty). The proof that he did not succeed in any of them is given by the number of attempts and also by the fact that he came to the end of his life declaring himself unsatisfied with all of them, while continuing to produce new versions (MS 339D: 662-665). Peirce sometimes defines the sign from its presentative nature, i.e. from its own materiality, which involves its ground. Other times, he defines the sign from its representative function, when the sign relates to its object; even other definitions focus on the communicative function of the sign, taken as a means for the transmission of a Form of the object to an interpreter, producing an effect that is the result of the process of Communication. Some of his definitions are brief and select just the triadic basic characteristic of the sign; others try to open the range of the components in order to study its fine granulation. Here is a attempt: “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” (SS 80-81, 1908 apud Marty).