Semiotics and Scientific Method

Mental Process Steps to Science Peirce
1903
Stevens
1939
Eddington
1946
Gregory
1960
Kinston
1985
Abduction:
What is that?
Recognizable qualitative 5. possible ICON        
Could this be another? Thinkable qualitative 6. possible INDEX   Entity Entity Entity, real idea
Deduction:
Yes it is!
Observable qualitative 7. factual INDEX Nominal Observable Observable Observable, existent
Do they add up to anything? Scorable quantitative 8. possible SYMBOL Ordinal   Comparable Comparable quantity
How much? Measurable quantitative 9. factual SYMBOL Interval & Ratio Measurable Measurable Measurable unit
Induction:
What do they mean?
Analyzable quantitative 10. arguable SYMBOL       Relatable process

Semiotics (the science of signs) was developed by Charles S. Peirce to describe the stages through which we come to acquire and exchange knowledge. Some of his signs explain the stages before deliberate thought occurs. His later signs, however, show similarity in meaning with the stages of scientific meaning and method perceived by those concerned with the practicalities of science. The Table shows some of these parallelisms.

Notice the progression. Until we reach the Analyzable (Peirce's arguable), each piece of knowledge, each fact, stands on its own. Relating one fact to another, thunder-claps to rain, implies that we have observed a replicated pattern, and, maybe sub-consciously, discovered that when the sound of thunder reaches a certain intensity, rain is imminent. What many would claim is a mere qualitative connection is discovered to be the result of a quantitative analysis. The much discussed divergence of qualitative and quantitative methodology is seen to be an illusion or misunderstanding. Our initial thoughts about anything must be qualitative, but they cannot remain there for we would soon drown in an ever-deepening sea of disconnected and undigested unique thoughts. We must synthesize the thoughts. We must reduce them to simple patterns. We must group them together with similar thoughts, so they can be considered many instances of one typical thought. Then we can assess the size of what we have discovered and relate it to other thoughts. To imagine that all this occurs at the qualitative level is to misperceive our own mental processes.

Measurement is an essential step in scientific method. To the extent that we are sloppy or unaware of measurement, we impair the development of robust knowledge.

Benjamin D. Wright

Eddington A. S. (1946) Fundamental Theory. London: Cambridge University Press.

Gregory C. C. L. (1960) A proposal to replace belief by method in the premensural sciences. Nature 185 p.124.

Kinston W. (1985) Measurement and the structure of scientific analysis. Systems Research 2:2 95-104.

Peirce C. S. (1991) Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotics (J Hoppes, Ed.). Chapel Hill NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Sheriff J. K. (1994) Charles Peirce's Guess at the Riddle. Ch. 3, 31-47. Bloomington IN: Indiana Univ. Press.

Stevens S. S. (1946) On the theory of scales of measurement. Science 103 677-680.


Semiotics and Scientific Method. Wright B. D. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1997, 11:1 p. 539-540.



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