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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 34, Issue 1/2, 2018

John N. Deely Memorial Issue

Donna E. West
Pages 39-64

Deely’s Extension of Peirce’s Thirdness

According to Deely, Peirce’s renovation of Saussure’s semiology to create his division of signs was far-reaching; it incorporates their use within non-living systems. Deely’s rationale is founded upon consideration of Peirce’s concept of individual/the continuum, and reality/existence. Deely’s argument proceeds as follows: it is not uniqueness or unique conscious reflection which qualifies sign use, but the habits to which animate and inanimate systems become subject. In posing his argument, Deely draws upon Krampen’s claim that signs permeate the plant world, in the Thirdness of plant reactions to experiences. This clearly illustrates the significant impact of Secondness in semiosis. Deely’s further (but brief) treatment of how potential eventualities qualify as real reveals Deely’s final interpretation of Peirce’s sign legacy. It brings to light Peirce’s insistence that possibility (that which is yet to transpire) may influence semiosis more substantially than mere actuality. In fact, potential habit-change represents Peirce’s most mature semiotic—what obviates the existence and use of signs in living and nonliving systems alike is not the degree of awareness/consciousness of what inhabits signs, but changes in reactivity (a form of pregenerative thirdness).

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