The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘Logical Tracts. No. 2. On Existential Graphs, Euler's Diagrams, and Logical Algebra’


A pure icon can convey no positive or factual information; for it affords no assurance that there is any such thing in nature. But it is of the utmost value for enabling its interpreter to study what would be the character of such an object in case any such did exist. Geometry sufficiently illustrates that. Of a completely opposite nature is the kind of representamen termed an index. This is a real thing or fact which is a sign of its object by virtue of being connected with it as a matter of fact and by also forcibly intruding upon the mind, quite regardless of its being interpreted as a sign. It may simply serve to identify its object and assure us of its existence and presence. But very often the nature of the factual connexion of the index with its object is such as to excite in consciousness an image of some features of the object, and in that way affords evidence from which positive assurance as to truth of fact may be drawn. A photograph, for example, not only excites an image, has an appearance, but, owing to its optical connexion with the object, is evidence that that appearance corresponds to a reality.

1903 [c.]
CP 4.447
‘Index’ (pub. 05.05.13-10:24). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
May 05, 2013, 10:24 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Aug 08, 2017, 11:43 by Mats Bergman