Was there ever a semiotic triad?
CSP’s insistence that he (perhaps he alone) had mastered the form of counting proper to semiotics, mathematics, philosophy, that it finally went – for all its internal complexity – one, two, three… was all of this perhaps grounded by the seductions of internal coherence and lack of an intuitive alternative? Specifically, we should ask whether there was there ever a pure token. Is the token a third proper form of signification on the level of the icon and the index? What alternative to CSP’s brilliant analyses could make another sense of his examples?
Well, what if the tetrad precedes the triad? What if there were, first, these two – icon and index, and then another two – the same and the other? And what if, as has happened before, the place of the other turned out to be non-negligible? Suppose accordingly that the illusion of a third kind materializes from the transparency of the same and the opacity of the other. On this hypothesis there would be no token per se, but the function of the token would be that of the Other: the icon-for-the-index (a constitutively excluded limit point) conflated with the index-for-the-icon (likewise). Something, indeed, happens if we actually throw these points of dysfunction together at the highest level of abstraction, if we say that the Other is, in a way, selfsame, and try to determine what that way is. E.g., to avoid the parenthetical “likewise” of the previous line but one would already have been pedantic and unhelpful. But it seems possible to imagine this conflation, the selfsameness of the Other, as the lynchpin of the “perfect system of logical notation” only if we keep from trying it out and observing that its function is dysfunction, its product the death of meaning. Does the motivated boldness of the imagination, its imaginary boldness, consist, upon raising the dangerous question of the meaning of “meaning”, in refraining from actually taking the last step of an experimentum of semiotic breakdown in order to keep imagining transcendence as synthesis? What local evidence could persuade us to cultivate that global suspicion? If under analytic pressure the signifier on the one hand and “meaning” on the other keep splitting – not into a coordinated pair consisting of icon and index, but into one or the other – and paired with it a badly-infinite, dysfunctional remainder.
In this story of doubling, to speak a little after the style of JHC, the one occurs on day one, the two on day two, the four on day three, and the three only on day four, by limitation and conflation. The Other is taken for a term. Which is not to say that this ambiguity is never productive, indeed, it seems almost to institute and perpetuate (to produce) a myth of production and to cover over what in the system cannot, at the level of truth, even function, much less signify, or what is finally the same thing for the pragmatist, produce. System: “productive” ambiguity, ambiguity of production.
In my story about the Two, we’ll see the same sudden suspicion of triads separate Plato from Aristotle, Sartre from Husserl, and both from the System. The common thread is contributions to dyadic (or tetradic, but not triadic) dialectic.