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
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.