ad instar realitatis

“Whence a mind-dependent being [ens rationis], although in itself it has subjectively no reality, can still be the object of an act of understanding and specify that act by reason of an objective proportion which it takes on in an order to the understanding when it has a real fundament and is conceived on the pattern of mind-independent being [ad instar realitatis]. For then it can perfect and specify the understanding by a mind-independent perfection, not one innate to itself or existing in itself, but one borrowed and appropriated from mind-independent entity, on whose pattern it is objectively conceived” (John Poinsot, Treatise on Signs, p.191, note 35.)


the knowability of the sign

“The relation of knowability to a cognitive power precedes and is presupposed for the rationale of a sign: for it pertains to the rationale common to any object or cognizable thing. But for the rationale of a sign it is further required that the knowability of the sign be connected and coordinated with another, that is, a thing signified, so that the sign substitutes for and is subordinated and servile to that thing in bringing it to mind. And thus the relation of this knowability of the sign to that of the significate will also be an essentially mind-independent relation, because it is founded on the proportion and greater connection which this knowability has relative to that knowability rather than to some other, so that the sign can substitute for that knowability and be vicegerent, and this is given on the side of physical nature, as is also the exercise of representing to the cognitive power, even though the order and relation to the cognitive power is not mind-independent” (John Poinsot, Treatise on Signs, p.140)

Quotes from New Beginnings

“Just as the Greeks and Latins reduced philosophy’s concern to what they supposed to be what it is, independent of human thought, so the moderns reduced philosophy’s concern to what was supposed to be distinctively rational or natural in the content of the mind’s workings. Postmodernism rejects all such reduction, and for the first time insists on bringing to the foreground the whole of experience, not just a distortion of it made in view of a selected part.” (John Deely, New Beginnings : Early Modern Philosophy and Postmodern Thought, p.17)

“Being is not only “that which can only be said in many ways” (Aristotle), but that out of which the division between what is and what is not independent of the mind arises (Aquinas), and not in any finally fixed way, but differently according to the time and circumstances of the one experiencing such a contrast among objects. / Hence the central importance for the nascent postmodernism of ideas of illusion, irrationality, and deconstruction, even though these fashionable preoccupations are far from the whole story and, in the nature of the case, incapable of adequately defining the contours of what postmodern philosophy must inevitably move toward realizing, namely, an adequate appreciation of the richness of human experience as the ground of all art and science, and the only means we have for testing what is true.” (p.19)

“[H]istory provides for the philosopher what the laboratory provides for the scientist, namely, the arena in which the consequences of ideas are played out. Miller (1993: 41) describes this idea that the work of philosophy must proceed through a study of history in order to achieve its best results as among “the most lasting lessons Foucault learned from his teacher”, Jean Hyppolite. In any event, it is one of the defining ideas of postmodernism.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.38)

“Modern philosophers distinguished within the list between primary and secondary qualities of objects, meaning by the latter color, odor, taste, sound, and warmth or coolness in particular; Greek and Latin philosophers distinguished rather between proper (or ‘special’) and common sensibles, meaning by the former color, odor, taste, sound, and texture or relative warmth.” (p.77)

“The question answered in their distinction between proper and common sensibles concerns the relations of environmental things to the channels of sense through which and on the basis of which these things become aspectually and in part objectified: some aspects of the physical environment, namely, the proper sensibles, are objectified, cognized, or known through a single channel of sense only, while other aspects are assimilated to experience through more channels than one, namely, the common sensibles.” (p.81)

“[T]he status of sign as ontologically relative is not that of a genus respecting natural and conventional signs as its determinate species. The status is, rather, an existential condition which can be physically realized in the natural and cultural orders indifferently according to the role of the fundament (the foundation of the sign-relation, the sign-vehicle) together with the circumstances which surround it but do not constitute it within cognition as a sign. For only a triadic relation can constitute a sign as such. Whether this relation will be objective only or will include a physical intersubjectivity as well is determined not only by the role of the fundament engendering the sign relation, but also by the circumstances under which that fundament operates in generating the relation.” (p.104)

“What Poinsot has presented in his thematization of the sign is a thoroughgoing demonstration that the action of signs is what gives structure to our sensations, perceptions, and understanding, both practical and theoretical—in a word, to our experience as a whole.” (p.106)

“But the immediate point to be made here is that the contemporary term “species” in English is not in any way helpful for understanding the Latin epistemological discussions of species. In fact, the main sense of the epistemological Latin term species, namely, the sense of giving specification or specifying form, is one that has never been really brought out in modern English discussions or translations of relevant Latin texts prior to the 1985 edition of Poinsot’s Treatise on Signs.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.127)

“Indeed, at the level of impressions, the species itself does not appear at all. … The species does not appear, it merely conveys the specific energy which determines that the power able to know becomes aware of the influence at work in the environment here and now.” (p.133)

“The species impressa, as a theoretical entity and technical term of philosophical vocabulary, is, at least in Poinsot’s tradition, as far removed from Hume’s impressions or Locke’s “simple ideas of sense” as could be, for the species impressae as such are neither sensations nor ideas, but simply that specification according to which the power of sense forms a sensation under some environmental stimulus. There are no simple ideas of sense as distinct from the complex ideas of perception. At the level of sense, prescised and distinguished as such within perception, there are no ideas at all, but only aspectual manifestations of the environment as influencing some particular type of organism here and now.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.135)

“By Poinsot’s day … Augustine’s question-begging definition of the sign as something per se sensible had been rejected in favor of the more neutral definition, “anything that represents something other than itself to a cognitive power”. This definition, it was argued, would then apply both to sense-perceptible objects which function as signs (such as words and cultural artifacts generally, along with natural occurrences such as clouds and smoke), and to ideas and images in our minds.” (pp.136-137)

“Formal causality in the specificative sense best explains the action of signs from every point of view. This causality can be exercised through the intrinsic constitution of the sign-vehicle (in the case of a natural sign) or not (in the case of an arbitrary sign), as the situation calls for. It is more general than the final causality typical of vital powers, inasmuch as it specifies equally both vital activity and the chance interactions of brute secondness at the level of inorganic nature. This is the causality that enables the sign to achieve its distinctive function of making present what the sign-vehicle itself is not, regardless of whether the object signified enjoys a physical existence apart from the signification.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.170)

“The prime interpretant in the case of cognitive organisms, of course, is the biological nature of the organism itself, which determines indeed not what sensations will be actual, but what will be possible in the first place for perception to elaborate and, in our case, intellection to assimilate as best it can.” “The first interpretant is the nature of organism, its biological heritage; the first object is the environment aspectually influencing the organism through its cognitive channels; but the first sign is the idea objectifying the environmental influences as desirable or undesirable, i. e., constituting experience in the first place.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, pp.226-227)

Quotes from The Primacy of Semiosis

“In fact, as Deely emphasizes, Poinsot’s ontological analysis of signs as relations only develops its full power when there is included within it a post-Peircian analysis of how signs become, or grow, and how they can do this without the need for physically existent terms.” (Paul Bains, The Primacy of Semiosis: An Ontology of Relations, p.9)

“For Deely (…), the main problem of so-called linguistic philosophy is that it fails to give an account of how we can talk about non-existent things, this being one of the most notable features of human language. Linguistic philosophy attempts to treat language as primarily involved in mirroring or developing a point-by-point correspondence with an external, non-linguistic reality. In the analytical approach, meaning and truth only occur when there is a direct referential correspondence between words and things.” (p.29)

“Deely (…) argues that Locke is using the term ‘idea’ as a representation whose cognitive function is to make ‘present within awareness objects regardless of their proximity within the environment. This is the main function of the idea that Locke had in mind, as also Descartes, and it is perhaps not too much to say that this is the principal notion of idea throughout the period of modern philosophy.’ However, unless we have an understanding of the distinction between representation and species (or representation and signification), we cannot understand the difference between a metaphysics of representation (‘the way of ideas’) and a semiotic (‘the way of signs’).” (Paul Bains, The Primacy of Semiosis: An Ontology of Relations, p.47)

“Maturana contends that the traditional view of language as a denotative symbolic system for transmitting information concerning independent entities has obscured the fact that such a conception assumes the pre-existence of the function of denotation, whereas denotation is the very function that requires explanation in an evolutionary theory of natural languages.” (p.128)

Quotes from Reason in Philosophy

“The sort of self-consciousness that is exhibited in making explicit (in judgeable, sayable, thinkable, propositional form) what otherwise remains implicit in the inferentially articulated practical capacities in virtue of which one can be consciously aware of anything (make something explicit, by judging, saying, or thinking something, applying concepts) is sui generis, and not to be understood on the traditional Tarski-Carnap model of metalanguages.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, pp.11-12)

“As concept users, we are beings who can make explicit how things are and what we are doing—even if always only in relief against a background of implicit circumstances, conditions, skills, and practices. Among the things on which we can bring our explicitating capacities to bear are those very concept-using capacities that make it possible to make anything at all explicit. Doing that is philosophizing.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.18)

“What we have had to presuppose, in telling this story about the activity of synthesizing a transcendental unity of apperception, is the availability, as raw materials, of judgeable (or practically endorsable) items possessing determinate conceptual contents. That is, it must already be settled, at each stage of the process of rational critical and ampliative integration, what relations of material incompatibility and inferential consequence the conceptual contents that are to be integrated stand in to one another.” (Reason in Philosophy, p.47)

“To judge, claim, or believe that the cat is on the mat, one must have at least a minimal practical ability to sort material inferences in which that content is involved (as premise or conclusion) into good ones and bad ones, and to determinate what is from what is not materially incompatible with it. Part of doing that is associating with those inferences ranges of counterfactual robustness: distinguishing collateral beliefs functioning as auxiliary hypotheses that would, from those that would not, infirm [sic] the inference.” (p.54)

“If not only that one is bound by a certain norm, but also what that norm involves—what is correct or incorrect according to it—is up to the one endorsing it, the notion that one is bound, that a distinction has been put in place between what is correct and incorrect according to that norm, goes missing.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.64)

“It is up to me which counter in the game I play, which move I make, which word I use. But it is not then in the same sense up to me what the significance of that counter is—what other moves playing it precludes or makes necessary, what I have said or claimed by using that word, what the constraints are on successful rational integration of the commitment I have thereby undertaken with the rest of those I acknowledge.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.72)

“The inexhaustibility of concrete, sensuous immediacy guarantees that we will never achieve a set of conceptual contents articulated by relations of material inferential consequence and incompatibility that will not, when correctly applied, according to their own standards, at some point lead to commitments that are incompatible, according to those same standards. No integration or recollection is final at the ground level.” (Reason in Philosophy, p.104)

“And it has seemed perverse to some post-Enlightenment thinkers in any way to privilege the rational, cognitive dimension of language use. But if the tradition I have been sketching is right, the capacity to use concepts in all the other ways explored and exploited by the artists and writers whose imaginative enterprises have rightly been admired by romantic opponents of logocentrism is parasitic on the prosaic inferential practices in virtue of which we are entitled to see concepts as in play in the first place.” (Reason in Philosophy, pp.120-121)

“How are we to understand and explain propositional content, if not in terms of truth conditions? And what is the overarching cognitive goal we are supposed to be pursuing, if not truth?” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.166)

“Quine uncritically took for granted the availability of a metalanguage in which one could pick out the domain elements over which his variables (a kind of pronoun) ranged. Though that is unobjectionable for certain formal purposes, it does not support a corresponding order of philosophical explanation.” (p.165, footnote 7)

“Having practical mastery of that inferentially articulated space—what Wilfrid Sellars calls “the space of reasons”—is what understanding the concepts red and wet consists in. The responsive, merely classificatory, non-inferential ability to respond differentially to red and wet things is at most a necessary condition of exercising that understanding, not a sufficient one.” (p.170)

“Here, then, is the first lesson that analytic philosophy ought to have taught cognitive science: there is a fundamental metaconceptual distinction between classification in the sense of labeling and classification in the sense of describing, and it consists in the inferential consequences of the classification: its capacity to serve as a premise in inferences (practical or theoretical) to further conclusions.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.205)

Quotes from The Incorporeal

“A body that acts causes something, though, as we will see, what it causes is conceived by the Stoics in an utterly idiosyncratic way: causes do not cause effects, as we have assumed since at least the seventeenth century; rather they create predicates. . . . Fate is understood by the Stoics as the concatenation of causes alone: fate does not include effects (the concept of “effect” is nowhere included in the Stoic definition of cause) but only the coming together and collective force of causes in their totality,
causes indifferent to effects, bound up only with each other.” (Elizabeth Grosz, The Incorporeal – Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism, p.26)

“What language expresses (rather than refers to, denotes, or designates, which is itself material) is incorporeal, a process, an event, a change of state, a modification, something that adheres to or floats on the surface without penetrating the identity and continuity of the body, a “thin film at the limit of things and words” (LS 31).” (The Incorporeal, p.39)

“Stoic ethics aims to produce in oneself a knowledge of both oneself and all the bodies that occupy the world. It aims to be worthy of the events destined to be: to live, in the present, the eternity of the past which has always contained the event or advent of this present (and all presents) and the eternity of the future that comes from it.” (Elizabeth Grosz, The Incorporeal, p.52)

“For Spinoza, it is only if we can move away from superstitious or magical thinking, in which divine or human beings can break the causal order to insert “free causes,” that is, only if we come to a reasonable understanding of affects, the manner in which we are affected by other things and affect them, that we can understand the causal network within which we are embedded and in which we participate as actants as much as effects.” (Elizabeth Grosz, The Incorporeal, p.85)

“Freedom is not “free choice,” the choice between already existing objects or actions, nor is it the absence of causes, indetermination; it consists in understanding necessity, the necessity that causes my own existence and the whole of existence that I require, directly or indirectly, to persist in my being.” (Grosz, The Incorporeal, p.90)

“In spite of his resistances to the Darwin he inherits, Nietzsche places bodily impulses, instincts, the preservation of the species, and the excessive desires of living things above the operations of reason, not annihilating reason but inevitably orienting it to questions of life, even as thought may rebel against or be ignorant of these questions, ensuring that reason is always tinged with the aura of the “unreason or counterreason of passion” (GS #3), that even bad or evil intentions function to preserve the species.” (The Incorporeal, p.108)

“It is because of the sense that is mixed with events that thought is possible, that concepts can be created and conceptual means developed by which we can modify our behavior and environment, survive circumstances beyond our control, and create new orders by which to survive the chaos, the excess of forces, into which we are born.” (Elizabeth Grosz, The Incorporeal, p.151)


“[N]egation, as bespeaking the lack of a form, is given on the side of mind-independent being negatively, because the form itself is not in the thing. Yet it is not called a mind-dependent being for this reason, but because, while in the physical world it is not a being, but the absence of a form, it is understood by the mind after the manner of a being, and so prior to the consideration of the understanding it denominates a deficient subject. But this deficiency or lack is not properly a formal effect, nor is to remove a form some form [nec tollere formam est aliqua forma], but the deficiency is understood in the manner of a formal effect, inasmuch as it is understood in the mode of a form, and consequently after the pattern of a formal effect, while in fact the deficiency or lack in question is not a formal effect, but the removal of that effect.” (John Poinsot, Treatise on Signs, p.54)