Peirce’s Theory of Signs [Book Review]

Authors
Robert Lane
University of Miami
Abstract
Charles Peirce’s simple definition of a sign as something that stands for something to something belies the depth and complexity of his foundational work in semiotics, or as he sometimes wrote, “semeiotic.” T. L. Short’s Peirce’s Theory of Signs is a dense book, and at points difficult. But only the shallowest work on this difficult subject could fail to challenge the reader, and Short’s book is anything but shallow. It is, in fact, a major achievement, a singularly important work on Peirce’s theory of signs and one of the most important works ever to be published on Peirce.The first three chapters set the stage for Short’s eventual explanation of Peirce’s teleological conception of signs. The first reviews historical antecedents of, and alternatives to, Peirce’s approach, while the second considers changes in his views from the 1860s through the 1900s—changes that, on Short’s account, enabled Peirce’s mature theory to avoid devastating problems. Chapter three is a remarkably clear introduction to Peirce’s phenomenological analysis of his three universal categories, around which his taxonomy of signs is organized.
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DOI 10.1353/hph.0.0080
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