The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘On the Algebra of Logic: A Contribution to the Philosophy of Notation’


The third case is where a dual relation between the sign and its object is degenerate and consists in a mere resemblance between them. I call a sign which stands for something merely because it resembles it, an icon. Icons are so completely substituted for their objects as hardly to be distinguished from them. Such are the diagrams of geometry. A diagram, indeed, so far as it has a general signification, is not a pure icon; but in the middle part of our reasonings we forget that abstractness in great measure, and the diagram is for us the very thing. So in contemplating a painting, there is a moment when we lose the consciousness that it is not the thing, the distinction of the real and the copy disappears, and it is for the moment a pure dream, – not any particular existence, and yet not general. At that moment we are contemplating an icon.

EP 1:226
‘Icon’ (pub. 28.04.13-19:01). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Apr 28, 2013, 19:01 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Oct 21, 2015, 11:02 by Mats Bergman