Speak truth to power

“It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” These are the words of Cambridge Analytica chief executive, according to a recent Guardian article. See the fascinating undercover recording of a sting within a sting. Is truth really under siege? Speak…More

A brief history of signs

“As his speech deteriorated, Hawking learned to make every sentence count” (597) wrote theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. A complete history of speech synthesis and semiotic systems has yet to be written. I formulated the following reflection before news broke of Stephen Hawking’s death this week. Signs in time Plato was suspicious of signs (or names).…More

What is pansemiotics?

Pansemiotics has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. The term crops up several times in Winfried Nöth’s expansive 1990 book, The Handbook of Semiotics. The term provides a means of describing the theological view that “the whole universe became [in the Middle Ages] signs of divine revelation” (382), as in the Old Testament statement,…More

When is a building like a bang?

There’s some theoretical support for the idea that a building is a kind of shock, or at least belongs in the same semiotic category as a sudden noise emitted from a machine. Articles by philosopher and semiotician Elisabeth Walther-Bense (1922-2018) are in German — unfortunately, not yet available in English translation, or even online in German…More

What post humanists want

I’m glad there are philosophers who wrestle with what there actually is in the world — for real. So the rest of us can deal with practical matters. That’s a glib summation of how I contrast C.S. Peirce’s pragmatism with adventures in contemporary ontology. The task for one such ontologist, Graham Harman, is to give…More

Four-fold reality

C.S. Peirce is amongst the great geometers (or diagrammaticians or combinatorialiasts) of thought. We can also admit the contemporary philosopher of so-called “speculative realism,” Graham Harman, to the four sided pantheon with his book The Quadruple Object. The book is about much more, but in passing happens upon a good justification for the combinatorics of…More

Hunch, symptom, clue

I sold most of my bit coin last November and made a bit of a profit. Should I buy some more now it’s gone down in price? How do you reason under uncertainty? From a hermeneutical perspective we are always in an uncertain condition, though you might as well call it “contingency.” How you interpret,…More

Shadow of a doubt

In his book In Praise of Shadows, novelist Junʼichirō Tanizaki recaptures what is otherwise lost under the glare of modernity. As indicated in the title, he favours the half light, shadows and darkness of recesses, verandahs and outhouses, and with them the patina and ambiguity of materials worn over by time: old wood, stone, moss,…More

Inside out logic

If you live in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh is in Scotland, then you live in Scotland. This reasoning draws on the containment metaphor, and the transitivity of containment. It is easy to represent as a diagram, eg, as a Venn diagram. If something is in A then it is also in B. The diagram also applies…More

Marx on nonsense

“Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped” (Marx). I’ve been wrestling with C.S. Peirce’s idea that any moment of communication is potentially made up of three aspects that he labels firstness, secondness and thirdness. Here, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) comes to my aid. Deleuze invokes Marx  — not Karl Marx, but…More