In semiosis (the process of meaning), there is no sign without an interpretant, no interpretant without an object, no object without a sign. But in this ‘cooperation of three subjects,’ the reality of the one functioning as object is independent of its correlation with the other two cooperating subjects, the sign and its interpretant. The object and the interpretant are ‘the two correlates of the sign; the one being antecedent, the other consequent of the sign’ (Peirce, EP2:410) – but the reality of the correlation (experienced as the activity of meaning) does not constitute the reality of the object. ‘Reality is simply the character of being independent of what is thought concerning the real object’ (EP2:271).
You can’t know anything that you can’t imagine. But reality is what it is regardless of what you imagine or think it to be.
How do you know you are on the path? Reality checks you at every turn, informing you by crossing your path.
The psychologist Alexander Bain wrote in 1875 of belief that ‘it first shapes and forecasts the order of the world and then proceeds upon that, till a check occurs’ (quoted in Fisch 1986, 85-6). This ‘check’ may crack the shell of a brittle belief, creating space for imagination, abduction, inquiry, recycling and renewal of the belief system, the guidance system.