Communication and Consciousness in the Pragmatist Critique of Representation: W. James and C. S. Peirce

The pragmatist turn in Philosophy in the late XIX century and XX century was a serious attempt to refuse the privilege of the representational elements of the conscious-ness in the production of knowledge. Such privilege has its roots in Ancient Philosophy, in some consequences of the Platonic heritage, but was toughened by Modern philoso-phers of empiricist or aprioristic lineages within the modern concepts of Experience and Truth. With these last concepts of Experience and Truth I’m referring to the objectivising tendency that leads to identify experience with the final object resulting from the judica-tive fixation of relations. Due to the fixation of some basic relations the object of experi-ence was identified and conceived with such and such characteristics as something inde-pendent of the mental or judicative activity. Such method of fixation and objectivising of relations is also present in the common-sense ideas of Reality, Experience and Truth. In the field of the theory of signs the reputation of the modern concept of representation was so vast that despite the progress in the discovery of the differential character of the linguistic units, Saussure’s well-known notion of sign and the division between “signifi-ant” and “signifié” still kept the reference to the double across the body / mind polarity and to the “mental image” of the sign, Vorstellung, concept or “signifié”, as the core of meaning. If Peirce and James agree in the refusal of the classical theory of representation, their rejection came from different horizons and their critiques don’t mean the same. I’ll try to show that James’s and Peirce’s attempts are not disjunctive, although they are not members of a simple addition. In the writings of the Tartu School and in T. Sebeok’s reassessment to Peircean semeiosis one finds interesting tools to reconsider the relation to the World of the “field of consciousness” and semeiosic cycles, beyond representational-ism, such as the concepts of environment and primary, secondary and tertiary modelling systems. Starting with these insights I’ll propose at the end of the essay the notion of a double environment between psychic systems and systems based on communication
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DOI 10.4000/ejpap.864
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Icon, Index, and Symbol.Arthur W. Burks - 1948 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 9 (4):673-689.
Pragmatism, Categories, and Language.Richard Rorty - 1961 - Philosophical Review 70 (2):197-223.
Tom Sebeok and the External World.John Deely - 2004 - Semiotica 2004 (150):1-21.

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