Signs, social ontology, and critical realism

Tobin Nellhaus
Northwestern University (PhD)
Even though sign-systems are a crucial part of society, critical realism, as developed by Roy Bhaskar, does not yet have an adequate theory of signs and semiosis. The few suggestions that Bhaskar offers can be advanced through the semiotics of C.S. Peirce. In doing so, however, it becomes necessary to reconsider Bhaskar's ontological domains of the real, the actual, and the subjective, and expand the last domain into one of semiosis. This new understanding of ontological domains, incorporating Peirceian semiotics, provides the basis for rethinking the ontology of society: the customary dyad structures/agents becomes the triad structures/agents/discourses, each of which possesses material, sociological, and meaningful aspects.
Keywords Semiosis  Social ontology  Peirce
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DOI 10.1111/1468-5914.00060
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Luhmann and Emergentism: Competing Paradigms for Social Systems Theory?Dave Elder-Vass - 2007 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (4):408-432.
Embodied Collective Reflexivity: Peircean Performatives.Tobin Nellhaus - 2017 - Journal of Critical Realism 16 (1):43-69.
Debate: Seven Ways to Be A Realist About Language.Dave Elder‐Vass - 2014 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 44 (3):249-267.

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