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Re: [ontac-forum] Theories, Models, Reasoning, Language, and Truth

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 11:12:59 -0500
Message-id: <43A58A8B.2090603@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Barry,    (01)

Those are good questions, which bring out some
important issues.  First I'd like to summarize the
terminology with two slides from a recent talk:
____________    (02)

                 *Peirce's Semiotics*    (03)

Any perceptible configuration of the universe may be
interpreted as a sign by someone or something.    (04)

Basic classification of signs:    (05)

   * Mark  any pattern in any modality that someone
     or something is capable of perceiving.    (06)

   * Token  a classification of some mark as an instance
     of some type.    (07)

   * Type  a general pattern associated with some schema
     or rule for classifying and relating the marks in the
     environment.    (08)

Example:  A mark may be a pattern of green and yellow in
the lawn.  The mark may be interpreted as a token of type
Plant, Weed, Flower, SaladGreen, Dandelion, etc.
_____________    (09)

                  *Icon, Index, Symbol*    (010)

All living organisms from bacteria to humans process signs.    (011)

A sign may be characterized by the way the mark determines
the referent:    (012)

   * Icon  according to some similarity of image, pattern,
     or structure.    (013)

   * Index  according to some physical relationship;
     e.g., immediate presence, pointing to something remote,
     or causally indicating something not directly perceptible.    (014)

   * Symbol  according to some convention; e.g., spoken words,
     written words, money, flag, uniform...    (015)

Communication, memory, learning, and reasoning depend on signs,
but most signs are not symbols.
_________    (016)

Given this terminology, I'd make the following responses
to your questions:    (017)

JS>> Incoming signals that impinge on our nerve endings are signs.    (018)

BS> what are they just before they impinge?    (019)

Anything that does not impinge, has not yet impinged, or is
not capable of affecting our nerve endings is an undetected
part of the environment.  Using telescopes, microscopes, and
other instruments, we can detect aspects of the environment
that are beyond the reach of our senses.    (020)

When I said "someone or something", I intended the something
to be an organism that could be as lowly as a bacterium or
some sort of humanly designed instrument that serves as an
extension or a surrogate for our nervous system.    (021)

As soon as those environmental features are detected by the
nerves or instruments, they may be called "marks", which are
the most basic signs.  A mark does not become a token until
it is interpreted as an instance of some type.    (022)

JS>> What we call "objects" are the external projections of our
 >> internal constructions that have proved to be useful over long
 >> periods of time.    (023)

BS> Were the unicellular organisms existing billions of years ago
 > already then objects?    (024)

The organisms are the things that are doing the perceiving.  The
things that are perceived could be called by many different terms,
including objects, processes, stimuli, etc.  Since bacteria don't
have language, they don't call them anything, but they classify
the marks as tokens according to types, which we may call food,
nourishment, poison, danger, threat, etc.  By their behavior,
we can observe the responses that indicate how they classify
various stimuli according to the types that we identify.    (025)

JS>> Different psychologists may have different theories and
 >> different terminology for the processes of perception, but
 >> what they're discussing is still signs and signs of signs.    (026)

BS> Did we evolve from signs and signs of signs?    (027)

Our bodies evolved from other bodies, but our minds evolved
from more primitive sign-processing minds or quasi-minds of
simpler organisms. A few million years ago, they were apes,
which are extremely human-like except for linguistic ability.
A few billion years ago, they were some sort of unicellular
organisms, for which Peirce coined the term "quasi-mind".    (028)

Peirce made the point that every thought, idea, concept, or
percept is a sign and that the mind is a complex sign composed
of the totality of all the simpler signs that flow through it.    (029)

That, in short, is Peirce's solution to the so called mind-body
problem:  Instead of postulating an unbridgeable gap between
an abstract mind and a physical body, Peirce developed a theory
of the way physical sign tokens are classified by abstract
sign types.  The mind and its contents can be classified
according to abstract sign types, but it and its contents
are embodied in tokens of those types.    (030)

John    (031)


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