Critical articles by Peirce on fellow philosophers such as Dewey and James are seen to qualify

generalized, retrospective claims about what these thinkers had in common. Once again,

the stress is on a contextualized exegesis that reaches beyond the pages of philosophy.

What other approach would suit a thinker who arguably gave some currency to the term,


In a further similarity, whether intended or not, Deledalle’s peripatetic and notational

style seems to resemble the concise, conceptualized form of Peirce’s prose since both

share a sense of interdisciplinary intellectual inquiry, distributed across a miscellany of

publications. The result can be enjoyable and exploratory for the reader, sharing the

subtleties and shifts of argument across different circumstances and times.

There is arguably one more similarity between Deledalle and Peirce, and that is in

content. Behind a miscellany of publications and concise elliptical style there is a

controlling, motivating and coherent “philosophy of signs.” The Introduction hints at one

main theme that will provide a thread of coherence through its various papers. That theme

is the pragmatic nature of semiosis: of the fallible, experiential process of sign acts and sign

making that is the subject matter for any semiotic analysis and theory. It is a theme or

premise that will be echoed again and again in the papers that follow.


The first two essays overlap in their presentations of Peirce’s triadic semiotics as

“Peirce’s New Philosophical Paradigms.” They aim to set forth the philosophical context

and “paradigms” that question and inform Peirce’s development of a semiotic, and in

particular trace the transformation of Peirce’s work between “New List of

Categories”(1866/67) and “The List of Categories: A Second Essay”” (1894), in terms of a

response to philosophical problems; in particular, the debate between nominalism and

realism that characterized the differences between English and European philosophy up to

the twentieth century. Deledalle sees the crucial role of phenomenology or “phaneroscopy”

in developing mature categories (9), and in providing a philosophical basis for Peirce’s

pragmatic semiotic.

As demonstrated in Charles S. Peirce, 1839-1914, and argued in the Introduction of

this book, Deledalle has an acute historical sense. The first paper, “Peirce’s New

Philosophical Paradigms,” stresses the significance of 1885-1887 as a delineator of the

development of Peirce’s mature thought. The paper repeats the seminal role of one paper,

“On a Logic of Algebra” (1885), in anticipating the mature categories of Firstness and

Secondness (8-9). The 1885 paper responded to mathematical epistemology, or a

philosophy of mathematics, and revised icon and index sign types from the “New List”

(1867). The article, inspired by De Morgan’s theory of a logic of relatives,

began a decadelong inquiry into diagrammatic signs and reasoning, which explained

abstract and intuitive  thought within a representamen/sign act/interpretant relationship.

Analysis of the iconic nature of mathematical expressions helped resolve the dualism

of realism and nominalism that had pervaded his work up until 1885. “We are beyond

nominalism and realism. The mind is in the world and in continuity with it. The law

is a natural as well as logical process.”  The law is also, we might add, as Deledalle does

in later papers, “geo-social” (43), produced by and in public and communal testing (51).

Henceforth, the representamen of sign acts could be located in complex graphic form

in the artefacts of mathematics and culture: the mind can be studied in the world of

dynamic rich signs. The development of indexicality into Secondness is central to Peirce’s

work, which can be seen as a whole as a speculation on the sign/object relationship.

Peirce, in terms of Deledalle’s interpretation, invites a specific semiotic explanation of

action and “behavior,” something omitted from many semiotic and pragmatic theories.

These early papers convincingly argue that “Peirce’s semeiotic is a branch of

philosophy” (xiii), that what is distinct about his theory of signs can be described in terms of

the philosophical questions, of ontology, epistemology, ethics, metaphysics and language,

that it addresses and seeks to resolve. The title of the book thus remains convincing:

Peirce’s semeiotic truly is a Philosophy of Signs.