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date: 23 July 2024

sign and symbol. 

Source:
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Author(s):
Simon BlackburnSimon Blackburn

A distinction first explored in these terms by C. S. Peirce. Signs are a highly general category, including natural indications of things. Spots are a sign of measles, clouds a sign of rain to come. A sign of a state of affairs or event may be any indication, evidence, manifestation, portent, trace (which seems to be what Peirce called an ‘index’), or mark that is regularly correlated with it, and hence can be used to infer its presence. In that case, to take something as a sign of something else is to use it to infer the presence of the other thing. This is the use of natural signs, but we can of course invent signs or signals: in heraldry specified emblems indicate the identity of the person wearing them; or a picture of a man with a shovel on the roadside indicates the presence of roadworks; or the picture of beans on the can indicates beans within. In Peirce's view the latter signs work as ... ...

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