Mind in Motion and the Body of the Sign

Abstract: Charles S. Peirce developed a concept of mind according to which ideas, diagrams and pictures are connected in mental processes in order to generate propositions, meaning and interpretations. Over time, he passed over from explaining mind in general and cognition in particular with the help of a semiotics of thought-signs, and instead embraced an explanation employing particular logical sign systems, e.g. the Existential Graphs. Of course, this represents neither a contradiction to the first system, nor an exclusive alternative, for his preference depended heavily on the specific aspect of mental processes he was concerned with – whether he wished to describe logical relations or the material qualities of individual signs. However, one of the pillars of Peirce’s semiotics of mental processes maintains that both aspects – process relations and material qualities – are embodied semiotically. In a number of ways, not only by inventing the type / token distinction, Peirce made embodiment, both of material qualities and of relations between signs, the core of his semiotics and his approach to the philosophy of mind. This is also crucial to other aspects of his philosophy. For instance, in the context of a semiotic account of the mind, pragmatism describes a method for constructing a specific notion of embodiment in terms of practical consequences.