Peirce on the Symbolical Foundation of Personhood


This paper discusses the semiotic and metaphysical framework within which Peirce elaborated a symbolical and dynamical conception of personhood. It exhibits the centrality of Peirce’s early conception of the “unity of consistency” along with its decentering advantages. It describes how this gave rise to a metaphysics of personhood that questions the singularity of individuals. It then conducts a semiotic study of the evolutive process across which something indeterminate evolves into something determinate that increasingly personifies itself following the logic of symbolization, taking into account two major types of indetermination: generality and vagueness. It then considers the kind of teleology at work within personification. It concludes that personhood so conceived is not restricted to only individual human beings, for the process of symbolization at work is not confined to a particular species-specific application.


Peirce, Wittgenstein, personhood, determination, symbol, vagueness, generality

How to cite:

De Tienne, André. “Peirce on the Symbolical Foundation of Personhood.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 4 (2021): 79-100. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0040.


André De Tienne
Department of Philosophy, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
420 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA


Agler, David. “The Symbolic Self.” Cognitio-Estudos: Revista Eletrônica de Filosofia 3, no. 1 (January/June 2006): 1-9.

De Tienne, André. “La persona come segno.” Translated by G. Maddalena. In Semiotica e fenomenologia del Sé, edited by R. Calcaterra. Torino: Nino Aragno Editore, 2010: 91-109.

De Tienne, André. “Le signe en personne chez Peirce, avec échos wittgensteiniens.” RS•SI, Recherches sémiotiques/ Semiotic Inquiry 32, nos. 1, 2 and 3 (2012): 203-23. https://doi.org/10.7202/1027779ar.

Gartenberg, Zachary M. “Intelligibility and Subjectivity in Peirce: A Reading of His ‘New List of Categories’.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 50, no. 4 (2012): 581-610. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.2012.0071.

Henry, Michel. L’Essence de la manifestation. Paris: PUF, 2003. [The Essence of Manifestation]. Translated by Girard Etzkorn. Dordrecht: Springer, 1973. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-2391-7.

Hulswit, Menno. From Cause to Causation: A Peircean Perspective. Vol. 90 in Philosophical Studies Series. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, November 2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0297-4.

Lane, Robert. “Persons, Signs, Animals: A Peircean Account of Personhood.” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 45, no. 1 (2009): 1-26. https://doi.org/10.2979/tra.2009.45.1.1.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “The Basis of Pragmaticism in the Normative Sciences.” In Annotated Catalogue of the Papers of Charles S. Peirce, 283. Compiled by Richard S. Robin. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1967.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “Charles S. Peirce to Edward C. Hegeler, 11 July 1894”. Open Court Publishing Company Records, MSS. 027 in Special Collections, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. The Collected Papers. Vols. 1-6 edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Vols. 7-8 edited by Arthur Burks. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931-1935, 1958).

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “Division I. Formal Study of General Logic. Chapter I. The Categories.” In Annotated Catalogue of the Papers of Charles S. Peirce, 403. Compiled by Richard S. Robin. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1967.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings. Vol. 1 edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel. Vol. 2 edited by Peirce Edition Project. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1992-1998.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “The Law of Mind.” The Monist 2, no. 4 (July 1892): 533-59. https://doi.org/10.5840/monist18922434.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “Man’s Glassy Essence.” The Monist 3, no. 1 (October 1892): 1-22. https://doi.org/10.5840/monist1892313.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “New Elements.” In Vol. 2 of The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, edited by Peirce Edition Project, 323. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1998.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “On a Method of Searching for the Categories.” In vol. 1 of the Writings of Charles Peirce: Chronological Edition, edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel, 524. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1992-1998.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “What Pragmatism Is.” The Monist 15, no. 2 (April 1905): 161-81. https://doi.org/10.5840/monist190515230.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Writings of: A Chronological Edition, Vol. 1-8. Compiled and edited by the Peirce Edition Project. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities.” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 2, no. 3 (1868): 140-57.

Perry, John. Identity, Personal Identity, and the Self. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2002.

Robin, Richard S. Annotated Catalogue of the Papers of Charles S. Peirce. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1967.

Seyler, Frédéric. “Personal Identity and Cultural Multiplicity from a Bergsonian Point of View.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy 32, no. 3 (2018): 514-21. https://doi.org/10.5325/jspecphil.32.3.0514.

Short, Thomas L. Peirce’s Theory of Signs. Cambridge University Press, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511498350.

Stango, Marco. “‘I’ Who?: A New Look at Peirce’s Theory of Indexical Self-Reference.” The Pluralist 10, no. 2 (Summer 2015): 220-46. https://doi.org/10.5406/pluralist.10.2.0220.

Wang, Henry. “Rethinking the Validity and Significance of Final Causation: From the Aristotelian to the Peircean Teleology.” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 41, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 603-25.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, rev. ed. Translated by David F. Pears and Brian F. McGuinness. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. The Blue and Brown Books. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations, third ed. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan, 1968.

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.