Percepts (considered as signs) represent a world external to the perceiver. Nevertheless, the perceptual judgments which identify what you see (as this or that type of thing) are based as much on your perceptual habits as on what’s really out there. … Consequently the objects of our attention in a genuine quest for truth must be the dynamic objects of the signs constituting our reading of reality.
Only semiosis can inform anyone, and ’every sign,—or, at any rate, nearly every one,—is a determination of something of the general nature of a mind, which we may call the “quasi-mind”’ (EP2:389).
This quasi-mind is an object which from whatever standpoint it be examined, must evidently have, like anything else, its special qualities of susceptibility to determination. Moreover, the determinations come as events each one once for all and never again. Furthermore, it must have its rules or laws, the more special ones variable, others invariable.
These “rules or laws” are what we call the habits of the system, the bodymind. As for the sign, it is determined by the situation (consisting of relevant events in the world) of which the system is informed, which we call the object of the sign. The sign
is determined by the object, but in no other respect than goes to enable it to act upon the interpreting quasi-mind; and the more perfectly it fulfills its function as a sign, the less effect it has upon that quasi-mind other than that of determining it as if the object itself had acted upon it.
In another idiom, the more perfectly functional aspect of the sign is called signal, while its effects on the quasi-mind ‘other than that of determining it as if the object itself had acted upon it’ are attributed to noise. The informable system, in order to experience either signal or noise, must embody some indeterminacy, or variable state space. The sign which conveys information determines its interpretant by virtually selecting among the possible variations which constitute the state space of the system. This enables a sentient being to orient itself with respect to the state of its Umwelt (that part of the world with which it can interact). Of course, the mental system does not need to be conscious of doing this, but it does have to perceive the relevant part of its world as the subject of a perceptual judgment, a quasi-proposition or dicisign.
Is the percept itself a sign? It depends …
The percept is … whole and undivided. It has parts, in the sense that in thought it can be separated; but it does not represent itself to have parts. In its mode of being as a percept it is one single and undivided whole.
The percept is not the only thing that we ordinarily say we “perceive”; and when I professed to believe only what I perceived, of course I did not mean percepts, since percepts are not subjects of belief or disbelief. I meant perceptual judgments. Given a percept, this percept does not describe itself; for description involves analysis, while the percept is whole and undivided. But once having a percept, I may contemplate it, and say to myself, ‘That appears to be a yellow chair’; and our usual language is that we “perceive” it to be a yellow chair, although this is not a percept, but a judgement about a present percept.
CP 7.625-6 (1903?)
This is the origin of facts as used in reasoning.
The whole question is what the perceptual facts are, as given in direct perceptual judgments. By a perceptual judgment, I mean a judgment asserting in propositional form what a character of a percept directly present to the mind is. The percept of course is not itself a judgment, nor can a judgment in any degree resemble a percept. It is as unlike it as the printed letters in a book, where a Madonna of Murillo is described, are unlike the picture itself.
EP2:155 (1903); likewise EP2:191
I am thoroughly accustomed to think of percepts or rather of perceptual judgments as the data of all knowledge, and as such having a certain imperfect reality. They exist,—the percepts themselves do. But developed reality only belongs to signs of a certain description. Percepts are signs for psychology; but they are not so for phenomenology.
CP 8.300 (1904)
For phenomenology, or phaneroscopy, percepts are not signs: they are phenomena, directly present to the mind without regard to whether they are present mediately or immediately. Perceptual judgments, on the other hand, being assertions in propositional form, are signs professing to inform perceivers about objects. The psychologist, looking into the perceptual process from outside of it, sees the percept as a sign of the object perceived; but to the perceiver of that object, it’s the object of the sign expressing his judgment about what kind of object it is. This sign is a kind of quasi-proposition, a “genuine or informational index” (EP2:172).
A proposition is a symbol which like the informational index has a special part to represent the representamen, while the whole or another special part represents the object. The part which represents the representamen and which excites an icon in the imagination, is the Predicate. The part which indicates the object or set of objects of the representamen is called the Subject or Subjects … How much shall be embraced in the predicate and how many subjects shall be recognized depends, for the ordinary analyses of logic, upon what mode of analysis will answer the purpose in hand.
… the perceptual judgment does not represent the percept logically. In what intelligible manner, then, does it represent the percept? It cannot be a copy of it; for, as will presently appear, it does not resemble the percept at all. There remains but one way in which it can represent the percept; namely, as an index, or true symptom, just as a weather-cock indicates the direction of the wind or a thermometer the temperature. There is no warrant for saying that the perceptual judgment actually is such an index of the percept, other than the ipse dixit of the perceptual judgment itself. And even if it be so, what is an index, or true symptom? It is something which, without any rational necessitation, is forced by blind fact to correspond to its object. To say, then, that the perceptual judgment is an infallible symptom of the character of the percept means only that in some unaccountable manner we find ourselves impotent to refuse our assent to it in the presence of the percept, and that there is no appeal from it.
CP 7.628 (1903?)
In place of the percept, which, although not the first impression of sense, is a construction with which my will has had nothing to do, and may, therefore, properly be called the “evidence of my senses,” the only thing I carry away with me is the perceptual facts, or the intellect’s description of the evidence of the senses, made by my endeavor. These perceptual facts are wholly unlike the percept, at best; and they may be downright untrue to the percept. But I have no means whatever of criticizing, correcting or recomparing them, except that I can collect new perceptual facts relating to new percepts, and on that basis may infer that there must have been some error in the former reports, or on the other hand I may in this way persuade myself that the former reports were true. The perceptual facts are a very imperfect report of the percepts; but I cannot go behind that record.
The data from which inference sets out and upon which all reasoning depends are the perceptual facts, which are the intellect’s fallible record of the percepts, or “evidence of the senses.” It is these percepts alone upon which we can absolutely rely, and that not as representative of any underlying reality other than themselves.
CP 2.141-3 (1902)
That last sentence explains why percepts are not signs for phenomenology, or for logic. But the perceptual judgment is the starting point of all cognition, which is always semiosic: “every concept and every thought beyond immediate perception is a sign” (EP2:402).
Is the object of a sign “whole and undivided” as the percept is for phaneroscopy? If the sign is symbolic, the singularity or plurality of its object(s) depends on the point of view:
A sign may have more than one Object. Thus, the sentence “Cain killed Abel,” which is a Sign, refers at least as much to Abel as to Cain, even if it be not regarded as it should, as having “a killing” as a third Object. But the set of objects may be regarded as making up one complex Object. In what follows and often elsewhere Signs will be treated as having but one object each for the sake of dividing difficulties of the study.
Peirce, CP 2.230 (1910)
Thus ‘Every sign has a single object, though this single object may be a single set or a single continuum of objects’ (EP2:393, 1906). Genuine cognition is the development of these signs (which are also ourselves, according to Peirce) toward the complete continuum which would be the whole truth. This development proceeds by generalization underwritten by perception.
… if there be any perceptual judgment, or proposition directly expressive of and resulting from the quality of a present percept, or sense-image, that judgment must involve generality in its predicate.
That which is not general is singular; and the singular is that which reacts. The being of a singular may consist in the being of other singulars which are its parts. Thus heaven and earth is a singular; and its being consists in the being of heaven and the being of earth, each of which reacts and is therefore a singular, forming a part of heaven and earth. If I had denied that every perceptual judgment refers, as to its subject, to a singular, and that singular actually reacting upon the mind in forming the judgment, actually reacting too upon the mind in interpreting the judgment, I should have uttered an absurdity. For every proposition whatsoever refers as to its subject to a singular actually reacting upon the utterer of it and actually reacting upon the interpreter of it. All propositions relate to the same ever-reacting singular; namely, to the totality of all real objects.
Organisms capable of uttering or interpreting propositions are in the same boat with all living organisms in this respect: we must maintain our internal continuity, our integrity, in order to engage in semiosis at all. In order to cope with our situations, we must discover some continuities in the external world as well. We do this by perceiving objects and generalizing about the relations in which they (and we) are involved. Interaction with our current situation requires semiotic mediation, but not necessarily attention to semiosis, or to signs as such. The more attention given to semiosis, so that signs become objects of attention, the more deliberate interpretation and practice become. But attention to perceived objects is the bedrock on which all cognition is built.