Casting a dragnet

We can talk about ‘speaking from experience’ but we can’t say what ‘experience’ is. We can talk about the causes or conditions for having some specific experience, or for experiencing generally; but like all talk it means nothing unless you are already acquainted with the subject. Semiotically, i.e. from inside of semiosis, that subject is the object of the symbol; and the difference made by the operation of the sign is its interpretant. But the symbol can’t make a difference in the absence of ‘collateral experience’ (Peirce) on the interpreter’s part.

I fear I may be producing the impression of talking at random. It is that I wish the reader to “catch on” to my conception, my point of view; and just as one cannot make a man see that a thing is red, or is beautiful, or is touching, by describing redness, beauty, or pathos, but can only point to something else that is red, beautiful, or pathetic, and say, “Look here too for something like that there,” so if the reader has not been in the habit of conceiving ideas as I conceive them, I can only cast a sort of dragnet into his experience and hope that it may fish up some instance in which he shall have had a similar conception.

— Peirce, EP2:122

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