Peirce's Sign Theory, or Semiotic, is an account of signification, representation, reference and meaning.
Although sign theories have a long history, Peirce's accounts are distinctive and innovative for their breadth and complexity, and for capturing the importance of interpretation to signification.
We appear to be saying that there are three elements of a sign, one of which is the sign.
This is confusing and does not fully capture Peirce's idea.
(EP2, 478) What we see here is Peirce's basic claim that signs consist of three inter-related parts: a sign, an object, and an interpretant.
For the sake of simplicity, we can think of the sign as the signifier, for example, a written word, an utterance, smoke as a sign for fire etc.
For Peirce, developing a thoroughgoing theory of signs was a central philosophical and intellectual preoccupation.
The interpretant, the most innovative and distinctive feature of Peirce's account, is best thought of as the understanding that we have of the sign/object relation.
The following entry examines these three accounts, and traces the changes that led Peirce to develop earlier accounts and generate new, more complex, sign theories.
However, despite these changes, Peirce's ideas on the basic structure of signs and signification remain largely uniform throughout his developments.
The idea is that the object imposes certain parameters that a sign must fall within if it is to represent that object.
However, only certain characteristics of an object are relevant to this process of determination.