Learning qua semiosis[1]

André De Tienne

 Department of Philosophy

 Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

425 University Blvd.

Indianapolis, IN 46202–5140, USA.



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Psychologists of all stripes have struggled to understand the mechanics of the learning process. For Peirce learning is fundamentally a semiotic process-and thus pre-psychological-so that semiotic theorists have a lot to contribute to the analysis of learning in general. In my lecture I will examine five assertions extracted from one of Peirce's most suggestive writings on the nature of learning (from a text entitled "On Topical Geometry, in General," published in Collected Papers 7.536, c. 1899): (1) there is an essential relation between learning and the flow of time; (2) learning is a continuous process; (3) learning is virtually reasoning; (4) learning is interpretation; (5) and finally learning is representation, and thus another name for the central category of thirdness. I suggest, among other things, that learning is a process of becoming increasingly more sensitive to all kinds of signs, and that this is accompanied by a growing apprehension of the general conditional laws whose realization shapes the future. These laws, put abstractly, are forms that emanate from the Object to be communicated by the mediating Sign to the Interpretant, one of whose roles is to increase the conditional's antecedent information in order to decrease the vagueness of its consequent, a decrease which is essential if the Object is to be "learned."

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[1] This paper is a revised and shorter version of a longer paper published in German in Zeitschrift für Semiotik, vol. 22/1 (2000): pp. 11-30 under the title "Lernen, Geist, Semiose."