A more developed version of this paper can be found in
Santaella, Lucia & Nöth, Winfried (2004). Comunicação & semiótica. São Paulo: Hacker.
WHY THERE IS NO CRISIS OF REPRESENTATION ACCORDING TO PEIRCE
São Paulo Catholic University
Argument: Peirce´s semiotics is a complex and multifaceted theory of representation. Besides representation, this theory includes presentation, quasi-representation, presentification, but not anti-representation. That is why there is no crisis of representation according to Peirce. His theory also includes the distinction between representation and reference and between representation and interpretation. Despite its complexity, representation is only a facet of the more general concept of mediation. The key to the understanding of all these notions is in Peirce´s definition and classification of the signs, as long as we do not take his classes of signs as a classification strictu sensu.
Peirce's definitions and classifications of signs "are patterns which include all the ontological and epistemological aspects of the sign universe, the problem of reference, of reality and fiction, the question of objectivity, the logical analysis of meaning and the problem of truth" (Garewicks: 1983). Nadin (1983) also emphasizes that the typology of signs as it confirmed by the mathematical theory of the categories, must be understood as a web of fundamental points of reference in a generalized semiotic field and in the framework of the logic of uncertainty with the participation of the doctrine of the continuum.
First step: to understand Peirce´s notion of mediation of which representation is a facet. That representation is a synonym of sign is less than half of the truth. Representation is only a face of mediation, of which the other face is determination. The sign acts as a mediator between the object and the effect which the sign produces on an actual or potential ‘mind’ (CP 8.332). Although the sign is determined by the object, the latter is logically accessible only through the mediation of the sign. When the interpretant is created by the sign, it will be indirectly determined by the same object which determines the sign. The sign determines the interpretant but determines it as a determination of the object. The interpretant as such is determined by the object insofar as the interpretant itself is determined by the sign.
Sign relation= interlocking of a vector of representation, pointing from the sign and interpretant toward the object and a vector of determination pointing from the object toward both sign and interpretant (Parmentier 1985). Position of the sign= mediates between the object and the interpretant for both the vector of determination and the vector of representation. Representation is only one species within the multifaceted genus of mediation. The sign is determined by the object, but simultaneously, it represents the object. The sign determines the interpretant, and in determining it, the sign transfers to the interpretant the task of representing the object through the mediation of the sign.
Extension of the notion of sign so far as to include phenomena not inherently triadic. Even a dyadic action or reaction can function as a sign as soon as it meets an interpreter. Even a simple monadic feeling can also function as a sign as soon as it is compared to something else. The various grades of degenerate semiosis in the various classes of signs can function as analytical tools in the study of the distinct degrees of representation ranging from genuine representation to presentation, quasi-representation, and presentification.
Dyadic relations= signs of secondness, that is, indices. Instead of representation, indices are in fact mere instances of presentation, particularly because, due to their existential relations, most indices are envolved in perceptive processes. Monads= signs of firstness, namely icons, or signs in the highest degree of degeneracy. Here, instead of representation, we speak of quasi-representation, since just like qualisigns, icons have no power of representation. Qualities can only be compared to other qualities. They constitute quasi-representations. Pure icons= presentifications, the mere possibility of something originalian, at its beginnings, nascent. It is the icon in its pre-monadic aspect, responsible for what we call insight, a blend of instinct and reason, instinct for the truth or the reason of instinct
In Peirce, there is no metaphysics of presence to fight against. Mediation and consequently representation is unavoidable, even in its most fragile form of appearance as presentification. Hence, there is no room for a crisis of representation in Peirce´s semiotics.
Genuine triadicity includes secondness, as much as secondness includes firstness. Hence, within representation there is always some presentation. Inside secondness, there is always a certain degree of presentification no matter how imperceptible it may be. To be an existent, something does not have to lose its suchness. This inclusiveness of firstness and secondness within thirdness is also the key to the undertanding of the differences between representation, reference, and imagination.While refentiality is provided by the indexical element, imagination and signification can only be provided by icons. This inclusiveness and these simultaneous faces of Peirce´s concept of sign bring more ammunition to the argument that there can be no crisis of representation in Peirce´s semiotics, since any representation bears inside itself its face of reference, individuation, and presentation as well as its face of imagination and presentification, faces which include many of the aspects that others have considered symptoms of a crisis of representation.