Teleology and Semiosis: Commentary on T. L. Short's Peirce's Theory of Signs

Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 43 (4):636-644 (2007)
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Abstract

According to T. L. Short, Peirce's early thought - sign account of semeiotic engenders fatal flaws. On the one hand, it entails an infinite regressus of representation that cannot feasibly explain the connection between signs and objects and, on the other, an infinite progressus, leaving Peirce's theory without the wherewithal to account for the sign's meaning and significance. According to Short, Peirce overcomes the first flaw through the robust development of the notion of the index and the concept of collateral experience. The second flaw is overcome through the pragmatic theory of meaning, connected as it is to the notion of purpose and, ultimately, a complex theory of teleology. My commentary focuses primarily on Short's important analysis of Peirce's teleology. I argue that he is successful in giving a plausible, naturalistic account of Peirce's theory without straying from the spirit of Peirce's systematic thought. Although, in my view, the book is the best account of Peirce's semiotic grammar in print, it fails to give a sufficient systematic analysis of the other two branches of Peirce's semeiotic — critical logic and formal rhetoric.

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James Liszka
State University of New York, Plattsburgh

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