4. Signs in PerceptionEdit

The theory of interpretation applied to perception, 77. The difficulties of the question 'What do we see?' due to the neglect of the sign-situations involved; Helmholtz, 78. And to bad symbolic procedure, 80. Modifications of our sense organs as the initial signs which we interpret, 80. Direct apprehending as a happening in the nerves. -- Dismissal of the charge of materialism, 81. This view merely a rounding off of the most comprehensive system of verified references yet obtained. As such at present unassailable, 82. Some notorious paradoxes removed by the exhibition of the sign-situations present, 83. Such expansion of symbols as a general anti-metaphysical method, 85.


The certainty of our knowledge of the external world has suffered much at the hands of philosophers through the lack of a theory of signs, and through conundrums made possible by our habit of naming things in haste without providing methods of identification.

The paradoxes of really round pennies which appear elliptical, and so forth, are due to misuses of symbols; principally of the symbol 'datum.'

What we 'see' when we look at a table is first, modifications of our retinae. These are our initial signs. We interpret them and arrive at fields of vision, bounded by surfaces of tables and the like. By taking beliefs in these as second order signs and so on, we can proceed with our interpretation, reaching as results tables, wood, fibres, cells, molecules, atoms, electrons, etc. The later stages of this interpretative effort are physics. Thus there is no study called 'philosophy' which can add to or correct physics, though symbolism may contribute to a systematization of the levels of discourse at which 'table' and 'system of molecules' are the appropriate symbols.

The method by which confusions are to be extirpated in this field is required wherever philosophy has been applied. It rests partly upon the theory of signs, partly upon the Rules of Symbolization discussed in the next chapter.