The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘On the nature of signs’


A sign is an object which stands for another to some mind. I propose to describe the characters of a sign. In the first place like any other thing it must have qualities which belong to it whether it be regarded as a sign or not. Thus a printed word is black, has a certain number of letters and those letters have certain shapes. Such characters of a sign I call its material quality. In the next place a sign must have some real connection with the thing it signifies so that when the object is present or is so as the sign signifies it to be, the sign shall so signify it and otherwise not. [—] I shall term this character of signs their pure demonstrative application. In the 3rd place it is necessary for a sign to be a sign that it should be regarded as a sign for it is only a sign to that mind which so considers and if it is not a sign to any mind it is not a sign at all. It must be known to the mind first in its material qualities but also in its pure demonstrative application. That mind must conceive it to be connected with its object so that it is possible to reason from the sign to the thing. Let us now see what the appeal of a sign to the mind amounts to. It produces a certain idea in the mind which is the idea that it is a sign of the thing it signifies and an idea is itself a sign, for an idea is an object and it represents an object.

W 3:66-8
‘Sign’ (pub. 25.10.15-15:34). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Oct 25, 2015, 15:34 by Mats Bergman
Last revised: 
Oct 25, 2015, 15:34 by Mats Bergman