Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
In the semiotic movement of our minds we find evidence of influences from previous events, histories, and arguments. So, we find influence of memory. Memory influences the normatively defined measure for thinking correctly. The same measure is inherent in evaluations of one’s character and the possibilities of one’s actions, given one’s character. If we as a species have labored to diligently carve a plethora of theoretical frameworks from which we have developed differing possible futures, then, the freedom to chisel a new form seems plausible no matter how well cemented our acquisitions of language or logic seem to be. My purpose in this dissertation is to draw out the notion of memory in C.S.Peirce’s philosophy. I aim to do this so that a new way of understanding identity may emerge. This project analyzes Peirce’s three categories as phenomenological descriptors and as semiotic tools, explicating the process of memory building. In doing this, I go into considerable detail clarifying and making use of the categories and their degenerate forms to bring together a stable role for memory in Peirce’s philosophy. Along with providing exegesis of Peirce’s work, I also build simultaneously a picture of reality as the human mind moves through it by way of interpreting it. Two important correlates to this movement for Peirce are perception and time. I consider both these in relation to memory and as operative in and defined by Peirce’s mature semiotics. By way of conclusion I hope to provide an account of how perception and the active constitution of thought deliver a sense of identity, which depends crucially on memory. It is as an active interpreter of signs that the human mind finds semblance of its character and purpose within the larger context of its interactions. Inquiring about the world requires memory for an intuition (in Peirce’s sense) of one’s self. The upshot of this analysis is that it provides a theory of identity that is grounded in a relational ontology and addresses the nomadic possibilities of one’s self-expression and discovery, while at the same time acknowledging the deep hold of a history of habits.This provides the possibility of one’s individual self-memory to emerge and be communicable within a culture of ideas. The implication here is to carve a responsible space for perceptual freedom— the interpreter by the very act of thinking and perceiving is always connected and responsive to the world she understands. This dynamic and interrelational self has more to offer in terms of how identity is able to grow beyond the dogma and tradition of its past without the seemingly inherent violence involved in the growth of one’s ideals. I believe that oppressive structures of meaning are deeply weaved into our own sense of self via our memories of both ourselves and our communities.Parsing this relationship and its dominance requires a philosophical understanding of how this relationship is constructed and Peirce can give us this structure semiotically in what I understand to be the work of memory.
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