Archive for the ‘semiotics’ Category

The Semiotic Square

July 29, 2016

sq_greimasFrom Wikipedia:

The semiotic square, also known as the Greimas square, is a tool used in structural analysis of the relationships between semiotic signs through the opposition of concepts, such as feminine-masculine or beautiful-ugly, and of extending the relevant ontology.


In an earlier post I combined an unusual representation of the semiotic square with that of the Tetralemma. Instead of using that one, please use this one instead.




Categories of Experience

March 23, 2016

sq_categoriesThe philosophy of Charles S. Peirce is chock-full of triples, but especially present are his three universal categories of experience. Threes aren’t really my specialty, but while reading a chapter of Richard Bernstein’s book on the “pragmatic turn”, I was reminded of Peirce’s relational ontology: Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. Wondering how these could be extended to a Fourthness, I immediately found a fair amount of work on the subject.

Of course, Peirce argued that such a Fourthness was redundant, unnecessary to the structure of his systematic philosophy. He used various reasons for his conclusions, including mathematical, logical, and semiological. There is also a wealth of subsequent work by later researchers on defending this claim, but what is interesting is that others have investigated extending his three into a four.

So, what might be Fourthness? Some of the aspects of fourfolds collected here have commonalities with some of the attributes of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. For Firstness: feeling, quality, possibility; For Secondness: will, fact, existence; For Thirdness: knowledge, law, representation. I really don’t have anything to add at the present time and I have merely gathered these notions together for my future consideration.


Carl G. Vaught / Semiotics and the Problem of Analogy: a critique of Peirce’s theory of categories. Trans. of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 22, No. 3 (1986) 311-326

Carl R. Hausman / Fourthness: Carl Vaught on Peirce’s categories. Trans. of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1988) 265-278

Donald W. Mertz / Peirce: logic, categories, and triads. Trans. of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1979) 158-175

Richard J. Bernstein / The Pragmatic Turn. Polity (2010)


Ben Goertzel / The Hidden Pattern: a patternist philosophy of mind

[*9.108, *9.109, *9.112]


J.-Y. Girard’s Transcendental Syntax, V2

March 11, 2015

sq_transcendental_syntaxMeaning is use.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

The latest two preprints by logician J.-Y. Girard continue his program for transcendental syntax, divided into deterministic and nondeterministic. He defines transcendental syntax as the study of the conditions of the possibility of language: to begin by discovering the preliminary suppositions in the creating of a logical sentence such as a proposition or deduction.

What are the presuppositions for using propositions? Girard claims the main one is the balance between the creation and the use of words, which is at the heart of meaning. But the notion that a proposition has a meaning that is well defined is prejudice, albeit one that allows us identify the terms of a sentence and thus to perform deductions.

Girard wants instead to find inner explanations of logical rules: explanations based on syntax instead of a semantics that correlates to a mandated “reality”. To emphasize this, he gives the term Derealism as another expression for transcendental syntax. Logical rules should have a normative aspect because of their utility, so his project appears to be one of pragmatism. Others have said that Linear Logic is the logic of the radical anti-realist.

Girard divides all of logical activity into four blocks that weave together: the Constat, the Performance (please forgive my shortening on the diagram above), L’usine (factory), and L’usage (use). These four blocks are partitioned by Kant’s analytic-synthetic and a priori-a posteriori distinctions. The analytic is said to have “no meaning”, that is, “locative”. The synthetic is said to have “meaning”, that is, “spiritual”. The a priori is said to be “implicit”, and the a posteriori is said to be “explicit”.
transcendental_syntax_tableCan we find all the explanations we need to create logic internally? If so, perhaps it is only because of how the brain works, like how John Bolender posits that social relations described by the Relational Models Theory are created out of symmetry breaking structures of our nervous systems, which are in turn generated by our DNA. A realist would certainly say that our understanding of logical rules is enabled but also limited by our brains, whereas an idealist would say that our minds could “transcend” those limits. But it seems pragmatic to say that the mind is what the brain does.

I believe a closer analogy for the fourfold of Transcendental Syntax is to Hjelmslev’s Net than to Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction. If so, then Performance and L’usage are Content (Implicit), whereas Constat and L’usine are Expression (Explicit). Performance and Constat are Substance (Locative), and L’usine and L’usage are Form (Spiritual). Hjelmslev was a linguist that developed a theory of language as consisting of only internal rules.

Or even to analogy with Aristotle’s Four Causes, which is how I’ve arranged the first diagram: the Constat is the Material cause, the Performance is the Efficient cause, L’usine is the Formal cause, and L’usage is the Final cause. Material and Efficient causes are often considered mere matter in motion, which could be Locative, or meaningless (physical). Formal and Final could be Spiritual, or meaningful, as patterns of matter and motion, respectively.


How can we know that a given named term is the same as another one in a different part of our formula? Rather than using names, or linking them through semantics or a well-defined meaning, we can tie terms together by their locations in our sentences and deductions.


J.-Y. Girard / Transcendental syntax 1: deterministic case (January 2015 Preprint)

J.-Y. Girard / Transcendental syntax 2: non deterministic case (February 2015 Preprint)

V. Michele Abrusci, Paolo Pistone / On Transcendental Syntax: a Kantian Program for Logic?

[*8.122, *8.123]


The Tetralemma and Semiotic Square

January 28, 2011

The Tetralemma is a list that is supposed to exhaust all logical possibilities. Something is either X, or not X, or both X and not X, or neither X nor not X. Nagarjuna’s Fourfold Negation expresses a paradox by negating the Tetralemma, and asking what is not X, nor not X, nor both X and not X, nor neither X nor not X.

The Semiotic Square is an analytical tool to explore relationships between two semiotic signs, usually considered opposites of each other. The S1 and S2 in the figure are the signs in opposition, so that S2 is the dual of S1. S1+~S2 (S1 and not S2) would be X, ~S1+S2 would be not X, S1+S2 would be both X and not X, and ~S1+~S2 would be neither X nor not X.


[*4.84, *5.182]


Hjelmslev’s Net

November 29, 2010

“God is a lobster, or a double pincer, a double bind.”

— From A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari


Linguist Louis Hjelmslev developed a semiotic model which elaborated Saussure’s two part signifier and signified into the double dual of the substance of content, the form of content, the substance of expression, and the form of expression. Contents are “formed matters”, and expressions are “functional structures”. Both are further separated into a substance and a form. The original signifier can be considered the form of expression, while the original signified can be considered the form of content. The two types of forms are like a net of warp and woof (why else a net?), dividing an undifferentiated unformed matter (Earth, purport) into two types of substances.

Deleuze and Guattari cast this net from Hjelmslev’s use in language into universal application by way of examples in geology and biology: sedimentation/folding and molecular genetics. The two planes of content and expression are the First Articulation and Second Articulation, respectively, the first of which “chooses or deducts”, and the second of which establishes “functional, compact, stable structures”. In their geology example, the First Articulation is the process of sedimentation, and the Second, folding. Generally, the two substances deal with territorialization, deterrritorialization, and reterritorialization, and the two forms are concerned with coding and decoding (and recoding?).

Additionally, there is talk of the molar versus the molecular (as continuous/discrete or unity/multiplicity?) but the molar is not form, nor is the molecular substance, nor vice versa. The First Articulation moves from molecular substances to molar forms; the Second Articulation moves from molecular forms to molar substances. How confusing! What does it all mean? One could spend a lifetime lost in these fun-house reflections!

I propose that the four basic logical operators of Linear Logic are in correspondence to the double articulation of Hjelmslev’s Net.  Content is Conjunction, Expression is Disjunction, Substance is Additive, and Form is Multiplicative. Content and Expression is Substance or Form; Conjunction and Disjunction is Additive or Multiplicative.


Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari / A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia

Manuel De Landa / The Geology of Morals: a neo-materialist interpretation

Luke Feast / The Science of Multiplicities: post-structuralism and ecological complexities in design

[*3.170, *4.46, *4.88, *4.112, *4.146, *5.70, *5.174, *6.10]



July 16, 2010

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of Equivalent Exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the world’s one, and only truth.”

Alphonse Elric, in the first opening to Fullmetal Alchemist

The concept of Equivalent Exchange introduced in the anime quoted above inspired the title of this blog. “To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.” Though this term was recently coined, the concept is a familiar one and has been around for a long time. It is found as guides, rules, and laws in philosophy, religion, and science. For example:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Don’t take more than you give.
  • Give and you shall receive.
  • What goes around comes around.
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • You get what you pay for.
  • You get what you deserve.
  • An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
  • You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
  • Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
  • Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Yin and yang.
  • Karma.

I’m sure many more can be listed. I invite my readers to submit them.

These are all conservation laws: total value is maintained, even while it changes hands. And they certainly seem to be “conservative”:  all things being equal, they usually hold.

That being said, this blog isn’t specifically about “equivalent exchange”, except for hopefully obtaining the value of knowledge for the effort expended. Instead, I hope to explore a common thread that runs through philosophy, logic, and semiotics in the form of “double duals” (which themselves seem to have the property of equivalent exchange), with the goal of understanding and classifying different philosophical subjects and systems, exploring the nature of pluralism, and enhancing dialogue between opposing viewpoints. The image of the Tower of Babel in the title banner was chosen because public discourse has become fragmented and even broken.