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Subjectivity as semiosis: A Peircean perspective

Videmanis, Johanna Hannelore (1993) Subjectivity as semiosis: A Peircean perspective. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The onto-epistemological status of the person is the subject of much current debate, which centres around the question 'Are humans active agents with freewill or are their thoughts and actions merely products of their sociopolitical environment?' My analysis of Peirce's contention that a person is a sign has been an attempt to contribute to the debate by providing a metaphysical foundation on which we can base the explanation of the nature of human agency within communal semiosis.

Two specific characteristics of the sign and semiosis constitute the fecundity of Peirce's theory: haecceity (or dialogical action/reaction) and continuity. For Peirce, every sign is always a sign, in the form of its representation, for the subsequent one in an infinite process of semiosis, or sign translation. Haecceity means that all signs are actively engaged with each other in a complex interrelationship: the person as a sign, although constrained by communal semiosis, actively participates within it.

Continuity, which underlies the dynamic semiosic process, allows the transference of some similarity of meaning along a particular chain of signification. But since all signs are also continuous with each other, elements from various other signs may enter into a particular interpretative act. In other words, signs grow: semiosis is inherently creative.

The person, as a creative sign, has the ability to impute meaning into individual semiosis, and therefore, does not remain imprisoned within established communal meaning. In fact, with its continued usage, or haecceity with other signs, the new sign, may penetrate the established network of communal signs. Therefore, by accepting Peirce's contention that a person is a sign, we have established the basis for a coherent theory of active agency who is both influenced by and participates within communal semiosis.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Kalaga, Wojciech and Ruthrof, Horst
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