World Report

A Franco-German tribute to C.S. Peirce

By John Pier

On May 22, 2004 at the Maison Heinrich Heine in Paris, a conference took place entitled “La philosophie de C.S. Peirce dans le prisme de la recherche contemporaine française et allemande.” Organized by Anneliese Depoux and Trung Hoang Le (both of the University of Paris IV) and moderated by Claudine Tiercelin (University of Paris XII, where she directs the Groupe de recherches associées sur le pragmatisme et la philosophie contemporaine) and John Pier (University of Tours and Centre de recherches sur les arts et le langage at the CNRS in Paris), the conference was a transdisciplinary encounter bringing together philosophers, literary theoreticians and sociologists as well as a variety of specialists from other fields. The public included both researchers and graduate students, and the discussions inspired by the lectures proved to be a stimulating exchange from many points of view.

John Pier’s paper, “Quelques remarques sur l’abduction et la théorie du récit,” attempted to show the relevance of the Peircean triadic sign system for narrative theory, largely dominated for several decades, despite subsequent changes in narratology, by the binarisms inherited from Saussurean structuralism. More particularly, it focused on Umberto Eco’s appropriation of Peirce’s reflections on inference in order to stress the role of abduction in a semiotically-based narrative theory.

Igor Babou and Joëlle Le Marec (both of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyons) intervened with a contribution entitled “Les composites: une approche ethno-sémiotique des pratiques de lecture-écriture liées au savoir.” Showing how the processes of signification in Peirce’s semiotics combine with analysis of change in ethnography, they reported on a case study of a university library in the process of being computerized as a place of tension where the players either manifest or mask their practices in relation to contradictory norms.

Helmut Pape (University of Bamberg) spoke on “Abstraction and Logical Self-Control: A Limit for any Artificial Intelligence?” The argument is built on some of Peirce’s ideas concerning abstraction and the logical status of open-ended and self-critical reflections, and it maintains that human purposes, interests, etc. cannot be conceived of algorithmically. Abstract concepts such as justice and dignity do in fact have a logical base, constituting a limit for current approaches to AI.

Alexandre Roesler (Technical University of Dresden) delivered a paper entitled “Pour une philosophie des médias fondée sur la sémiotique de Peirce.” Alongside pragmatic, archeological, mediological and other conceptions of media are a highly diverse array of semiotic approaches. On the basis of Peirce’s definition of the sign, this paper sought to outline a “medial process” making it possible to formulate and resolve philosophical issues in the debate on signification in the media.

The discussions centered both on clarifications of Peircean concepts and on their extensions and fruitfulness, both attested and potential, in current research. Peircean semiotics is not widely practiced in France, although there are a number of scholars working in the field, most notably at the semiotics research center in Perpignan. The convivial discussions as well as the receptiveness of the participants – public and lecturers alike – thus augur all the better for future work on Peirce studies in France, both nationally and through international exchanges.

For further information:

Anneliese Depoux –

Trung Hoang Le –