Persons, signs, animals: A Peircean account of personhood

Robert Lane
University of Miami
In this essay I describe two of the accounts that Peirce provides of personhood: the semiotic account, on which a person is a sequence of thought-signs, and the naturalistic account, on which a person is an animal. I then argue that these disparate accounts can be reconciled into a plausible view on which persons are numerically distinct entities that are nevertheless continuous with each other in an important way. This view would be agreeable to Peirce in some respects, as it is modeled on his theory of perception, incorporates his categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness, and is in harmony with his objective idealism. But it diverges from Peirce in one important respect, viz. its rejection of the idea that some groups of human beings count as persons.
Keywords Peirce  personhood
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DOI 10.2979/TRA.2009.45.1.1
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