Donna E. West-The Operation of Secondness in Attentional Schemas

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Date(s) - 04/18/2013
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


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The Peirce Seminar Series Presents
Donna E. West
Associate Professor of Linguistics and Spanish
State University of New York, Cortland
The Operation of Secondness in Attentional Schemas
This lecture will demonstrate the primacy of Peirce’s category of Secondness in the formation of early concepts. The premise is that without expression in Secondness (actualization as experience), pure feeling in Firstness is untenable. While at first glance these claims may appear to be inconsonant with Peirce’s assertions regarding the preeminence of Firstness, in point of fact they afford a unifying scaffold to integrate his phenomenological, epistemological and metaphysical systems. In particular, Secondness initially materializes as an inchoate resistance – a continuous being over non-being in the scheme of human experience; and later its resistance becomes an active, interactionistic force.
The case will be made that the semiosis of Index validates the Secondness before Firstness paradigm. Index’s emergence as the first sign relation is convincing proof of the Secondness before Firstness assertion. Empirical evidence that early location constitutes the initial attribute assigned to Objects, together with its distinctly attentional character, makes plain the foundational place of Secondness in constructing representational systems. This line of reasoning suggests that attentional signs (in Secondness), such as visual source, path and goal indicators, are more ontologically primary than are signs of qualities (in Firstness), such as color and shape.
Finally, Peirce’s core definition of index – primarily the requirement of existential compatibility between Index and Object – will be examined in light of other, less tangible uses of Index. Accordingly findings at more advanced developmental stages show how Index is extended to displaced referents or to referents which are abstract/non-existent. In fact, the universal requirement that tangible attentional Indexes in their early use be associated with hidden or absent Objects further instantiates the primacy of Secondness in the course of semeiosis.