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AGAINST MINDLESS PRAGMATISM: A Symposium on Consciousness and C. S. Peirce’s Semiotics

Authors:

Abstract

In his book, Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs, Marc Champagne argues that current philosophical puzzlement about the qualitative dimension of consciousness stems, historically and logically, from a failure to properly handle the fine-grained distinctions found in the semiotic theory of the American polymath, Charles Sanders Peirce. The aim of this symposium is to reflect on what that might mean for the other body of ideas Peirce is known for, pragmatism. Most philosophers are familiar with the term-of-art “qualia,” but few know that it originally came from Peirce (Livingston 2004). The conjunction of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs is thus a natural one. In an essay titled “What is a Sign?,” Peirce tells the reader that “[i]t is necessary to recognize three different states of mind” (EP2, 4). The first state of mind Peirce invites us to consider is that of a red feeling, and nothing else. The reader who, saddled with an unexamined folk semiotic theory, came in expecting a discussion of traffic signals, will likely wonder at this point whether Peirce has veered off topic. He has not. Peirce’s goal is to evince the conditions for the possibility of sign-action. He wants to make a point: with a quality like red and just red, there can be no flow of consciousness. If one finds such a flow, the impetus must have come from a source different from the quality itself. Implicitly, Peirce is making an additional point, just as important, which is that we can follow through with his invitation to consider a quality like red in complete isolation from anything else. Logically, as well as psychologically, it can be done. Peirce makes sure to emphasize that “nobody is really in a state of feeling, pure and simple” as he just described it. Yet, he observes that “whenever we are awake, something is present to the mind, and what is present, without reference to any compulsion or reason, is feeling” (ibid.). Hence, on this reading, Peirce is not a “verificationist” who denies the experience of qualia. Much the opposite, he begins by telling us that qualia are the most fundamental constituents of any mind. Champagne’s claim, in essence, is that Peircean semiotics is exactly the sort of “fundamental theory” David Chalmers has been searching for since his 1996 The Conscious Mind. The question posed by this symposium is: can one agree with this semiotic account of consciousness and still identify as a “pragmatist?” One might argue that, because Chalmers (1996) asks us to imagine “zombies” who display no practical difference from regular humans, that idea violates the founding intent of Peirce’s pragmatic maxim. Still, before Chalmers can delete qualia from such experience-free zombies, he has to focus on a very narrow construal that deletes all relations from a given quality. This construal of a lone quality bears a striking resemblance to what Peirce wrote about “Firstness.” Participants to this symposium are thus invited to reflect on whether the commitments of pragmatism require a complete dismissal of conscious experience.
Journal of
Consciousness
Studies
When the founding editors of JCS met in the early 1990s to plan their new
journal, the word ‘consciousness’ still sent eyeballs rolling towards the
ceiling. Little could we imagine, some 25 years later, that Britain’s leading
playwright would base his new play at the National Theatre on a theme
that we have long championed in our journal, with contributors including
David Chalmers, Daniel Patricia Stuart Hameroff,
Colin Roger and Francisco .
We were equally surprised to receive a request from a Hollywood
production company to clear copyright for the JCS issue on
( , No.4-5) to be used in Neill Blomkamp’s new
blockbuster . Consciousness studies has now gone mainstream
and JCS, along with the TSC conferences, has played a major role.
True to its byline: , JCS has
long pioneered the multi-disciplinary study of consciousness.
Join the debate at
Dennett, Churchland,
McGinn, Penrose, Varela
Machine
Consciousness
Chappie
controversies in science and the humanities
10
Benjamin Libet,
imprint-academic.com/jcs
Journal of
Consciousness
Studies
When the founding editors of JCS met in the early 1990s to plan their new
journal, the word ‘consciousness’ still sent eyeballs rolling towards the
ceiling. Little could we imagine, some 25 years later, that Britain’s leading
playwright would base his new play at the National Theatre on a theme
that we have long championed in our journal, with contributors including
David Chalmers, Daniel Patricia Stuart Hameroff,
Colin Roger and Francisco .
We were equally surprised to receive a request from a Hollywood
production company to clear copyright for the JCS issue on
( , No.4-5) to be used in Neill Blomkamp’s new
blockbuster . Consciousness studies has now gone mainstream
and JCS, along with the TSC conferences, has played a major role.
True to its byline: , JCS has
long pioneered the multi-disciplinary study of consciousness.
Join the debate at
Dennett, Churchland,
McGinn, Penrose, Varela
Machine
Consciousness
Chappie
controversies in science and the humanities
10
Benjamin Libet,
imprint-academic.com/jcs
Journal of
Consciousness
Studies
When the founding editors of JCS met in the early 1990s to plan their new
journal, the word ‘consciousness’ still sent eyeballs rolling towards the
ceiling. Little could we imagine, some 25 years later, that Britain’s leading
playwright would base his new play at the National Theatre on a theme
that we have long championed in our journal, with contributors including
David Chalmers, Daniel Patricia Stuart Hameroff,
Colin Roger and Francisco .
We were equally surprised to receive a request from a Hollywood
production company to clear copyright for the JCS issue on
( , No.4-5) to be used in Neill Blomkamp’s new
blockbuster . Consciousness studies has now gone mainstream
and JCS, along with the TSC conferences, has played a major role.
True to its byline: , JCS has
long pioneered the multi-disciplinary study of consciousness.
Join the debate at
Dennett, Churchland,
McGinn, Penrose, Varela
Machine
Consciousness
Chappie
controversies in science and the humanities
10
Benjamin Libet,
imprint-academic.com/jcs
9-13 JUNE 2015
HELSINKI, FINLAND
Book of abstracts
Book of abstractsTOWARD A SCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS 2015
absence of a conscious experience within the same behavioral state. For this study, 6 healthy participants underwent
TMS–EEG during NREM sleep (5 nights per subject). Brain activity was measured using a 60-channel TMS-compatible EEG
amplier and single-pulse TMS was applied to the superior parietal cortex. Aer each TMS session (up to 16 per night), sub-
jects were awakened to ask for a dream report. We rst averaged the TMS-evoked potential over the last few trials before the
awakenings. We then computed the global mean eld amplitude (GMFA), the phase locking factor (PLF), the event-related
spectral perturbation (ERSP), and the state variance (SV). e results revealed increased bistability when the subjects did not
report any experience during sleep, as compared to when they did. Specically, at around 150–200 ms aer TMS, the negative
peak amplitude of the TMS-evoked response was larger and the GMFA was higher. PLF, ERSP, and SV also showed marked
dierences depending on whether or not subjects reported having had a dream. Furthermore, the dream reports correlated
with parameters of the TMS–EEG responses. In summary, variations in the level of consciousness within the same behavioral
stateNREM sleepare predicted by changes in the bistability of cortical networks revealed by TMS–EEG responses.
Against Mindless Pragmatism: A Symposium on
Consciousness and C. S. Peirce’s Semiotics
Chair:
Issajeva Jelena
Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, ESTONIA
ursday, June 11, 2:30pm – 4:35pm
In his forthcoming book, Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs, Marc Champagne argues that current philosophical
puzzlement about the qualitative dimension of consciousness stems, historically and logically, from a failure to properly han-
dle the ne-grained distinctions found in the semiotic theory of the American polymath, Charles Sanders Peirce. e aim of
this symposium is to reect on what that might mean for the other body of ideas Peirce is known for, pragmatism.
Most philosophers are familiar with the term-of-art “qualia,” but few know that it originally came from Peirce (Living-
ston 2004). He called them “qualisigns.” Indeed, Peirce used a sophisticated set of categories to show how all representations
must have some non-representational core. Since we humans have the ability to suppose those further elements of absent,
we can articially divorce or “prescind” any given quality we experience (like red or the taste of pickled herring) from the
causal and inferential relations it is sandwiched in. Once enlisted in cognitive processes (like recollection, etc.), such quali-
ties may act as signs, but those qualities are not themselves signs, unless they are linked to something else by an interpreta-
tion. Building on this seminal Peircean idea, Champagne argues that many recurring confusions about consciousness result
from a failure to track where we have deliberately omied those objects and interpretations.
e conjunction of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs is thus a natural one. In an essay titled “ What is a
Sign?,” Peirce tells the reader that “[i]t is necessary to recognize three dierent states of mind” (EP2, 4). e rst state of
mind Peirce invites us to consider is that of a red feeling, and nothing else. e reader who, saddled with an unexamined
folk semiotic theory, came in expecting a discussion of trac signals, will likely wonder at this point whether Peirce has
veered o topic. He has not. Peirce’s goal is to evince the conditions for the possibility of sign-action. He wants to make
a point: with a quality like red and just red, there can be no ow of consciousness. If one nds such a ow, the impetus
must have come from a source dierent from the quality itself. Implicitly, Peirce is making an additional point, just as im-
portant, which is that we can follow through with his invitation to consider a quality like red in complete isolation from
anything else. Logically, as well as psychologically, it can be done. Peirce makes sure to emphasize that “nobody is really
in a state of feeling, pure and simple” as he just described it. Yet, he observes that “whenever we are awake, something is
present to the mind, and what is present, without reference to any compulsion or reason, is feeling” (ibid.). Hence, on
this reading, Peirce is not a “vericationist” who denies the experience of qualia. Much the opposite, he begins by telling
us that qualia are the most fundamental constituents of any mind. Champagne’s claim, in essence, is that Peircean semi-
otics is exactly the sort of “fundamental theory” David Chalmers has been searching for since his 1996 e Conscious
Mind.
e question posed by this symposium is: can one agree with this semiotic account of consciousness and still identify as
a “pragmatist?”
TOWARD A SCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNE SS 2015 121
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is is a question worth asking, because some prominent Peirce scholars like T. L. Short (2007) have described semioti-
cians as “the wrong crowd.” In saying this, Short aligns himself with Cheryl Misak (2013), who argues that anything other
than a naturalist outlook corrupts the ideas of Peirce. Of course, Peirce’s fellow pragmatist, William James, was never an
enemy of conscious experience, but scholars like Short and Misak think pragmatists should rid themselves of such Jamesian
inuences. eir stance thus makes functionalismthe idea that mental states are exhaustively characterised by how they
relate inputs and outputsinto the only account a self-respecting pragmatist should endorse. Champagne’s work, however,
shows that there is much in Peircean semiotics which can vindicate the claim that, in addition to functions, there is some-
thing “it is like” to undergo an experience, even if that quality cannot be scientically studied.
One might argue that, because Chalmers (1996) asks us to imagine “zombies” who display no practical dierence from
regular humans, that idea violates the founding intent of Peirce’s pragmatic maxim. Still, before Chalmers can delete qualia
from such experience-free zombies, he has to focus on a very narrow construal that deletes all relations from a given quality.
is construal of a lone quality bears a striking resemblance to what Peirce wrote about “Firstness.” Participants to this sym-
posium are thus invited to reect on whether the commitments of pragmatism require a complete dismissal of conscious
experience.

Consciousness
Colapietro Vincent
Department of Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA,
Especially in recent years, there has been an eort to link considerations of felt qualia (or “raw feels”) and the cognitive ac-
cessibility of various dimensions of human consciousness. is undertaking has not, until now, been much informed by
C. S. Peirce’s writings. is is unfortunate, since Peirce’s triadic categorial scheme and various distinctions regarding signs
provide us with the means by which to investigate consciousness in both its irreducibly phenomenal presence and its cogni-
tive accessibility. Even before my 1989 book, Peirce’s Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity,
I have been preoccupied with showing the relevance of Peirce’s work to this area of inquiry. My commitment to this task
was thus renewed and indeed deepened by a recent monograph. Marc Champagne has provided those interested in ques-
tions of consciousness with both an informed introduction to the most salient features of Peirce’s thought and a painstaking
treatment of pivotal questions in light of Peirce’s doctrine of categories and philosophy of signs. For someone who has long
been interested in both this philosopher and these questions, Champagne’s book is an extremely welcome addition to the
literature. ere are, however, points about which even a sympathetic reader of Champagne’s timely contribution might ask
for fuller or deeper consideration. One of these is the distinction between qualia and qualisigns (rsts in their uer rstness
and in their semiotic function). Another is the role of phenomenology (or, as Peirce oen termed it, phaneroscopy) in the
investigation of signs. If I would like to take this occasion as an opportunity to break a lance for both qualia in their uer
rstness and phenomenology in its semiotic salience, it is out of deep appreciation for what Champagne has accomplished
in Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs, not out of any fundamental dissatisfaction.

Kilpinen Erkki
Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
I am trying to do something analogous to the impressive new contribution by Marc Champagne, namely to stand in defence
of the naturalist approach to the semiotic consciousness, aer his interesting opening. My starting point is that semiotic
is not about signs, it is about semeiosis, that is: sign-action (processes of interpretation), to borrow expressions by Max
Fisch and omas Sebeok. “We are forced to conclude that consciousness is an emergent from behavior,” declared George
Herbert Mead some eighty years ago, continuing “that so far from being a precondition of the social act, the social act is a
precondition of [consciousness]. e mechanism of the social act can be traced out without introducing into it the concep-
tion of consciousness as a separate element within that act.” Mead is here bringing to consummation the pragmatist project
in the philosophy of mind that Peirce initiated a generation earlier. at project can also be called semiotic, although, aside
from his “signicant symbol,” Mead scarcely uses concepts redolent of semiotics. If one is not unduly enamoured with semi-
otic terminology, one might add that so much the beer; the famous Peircean trichotomies are to be taken as our servants
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(called to service when need be) in semiotic studies, not as our masters. If one takes a look at consciousness studies today,
one nds that Mead has more than verbally foreshadowed the interpretation of consciousness that emerges from Antonio
Damasio’s psycho-physiological work, for example. Both share the starting point that only an acting being has any need for
mind and consciousness in the rst place. is points toward the conclusion that a naturalistic philosophy of mind is pos-
sible from pragmatist premises. How far it is useful in practice is a question to be seled by empirical research.
Pragmatism as a Logical Study of Consciousness
Pietarinen Ahti-Veikko
Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, ESTONIA
Peirce’s pragmatism is a statement of the scientic method, concerned with nding out the highest grade of clearness, that
is, the meaning and purpose of signs that are of the nature of “thoughts, intellectual concepts and generalities.” Seen in this
pragmatist light, the scientic method would not seem to leave much room for the study of non-intentional phenomena
pertaining to the category of rstness. In that category, we nd not only the terms familiar from contemporary philosophy
of mind, such as appearances, sensations and feelings, but more importantly, the more qualied ones of (i) “immediate con-
sciousness of quality” (and so not just any quality as such) and “single non-compound sensations” (and so not just any sen-
sation), as well as (ii) the sign-theoretic “tones and qualisigns,” “icons and images” (the laer the rst rstnesses” of icons)
and “rhemas,” and (iii) the phaneroscopic, logical and diagrammatic “logically indecomposable elements of thought,spots
and potentials,” “substantive possibilities,” and “sheets of consciousness.” Yet, a deeper analysis of what belongs to Peirce’s
preferred groups of notions (i)-(iii) reveals a rich theoretical structure within which they are embedded. Peirce wanted con-
sciousness to be a subject maer for logic. Objects of consciousness such as “the feelings a symphony inspires or that which
is in the soul of a furiously angry man in [the] presence of his enemy” can, Peirce held, be “perfectly well be expressed” in
the various logical graphs he pioneered. Interpreters work on a “special area of consciousness” which is similar to the “sheet”
used in all his calculi. Hence, as a complement to Champagne’s contribution, I propose to analyse the senses in which the
study of consciousness, or even qualia, could fall under the auspices of pragmatism.

Benne Tyler
Department of Semiotics, Tartu University, Tartu, ESTONIA
T. L. Short aempts to distance Peirce’s sign theory from a great deal of current scholarship by claiming that semioticians
oen lack a comprehensive enough understanding of his philosophy to perform persuasive analyses. Herman Parret adopts
a similar stance when he writes that semioticians’ use of Peirce “leads to the worst interpretations” (1994, p. xiii). It comes
out later that, for Short and Parret, the use of Peirce for object analysis, particularly analyses pertaining to art objects, is cat-
egorically incorrect. Although art objects can be targets of conscious awareness, they are presumably disqualied on account
of their failure to match the sort of pragmatic apprehension that Short prizes. In his contribution to the Cambridge Com-
panion to Peirce (2004), Short argues that artistic objects are essentially meaningless. is strangely positivistic take on
Peirce has it that, since the meaning of artistic objects can be grasped wholly in emotional interpretants, and since emotional
interpretants are never ultimate, art objects are meaningless. On Shorts view, only those parts of the sign process directly
involving arguments and producing ultimate interpretants are worthy of description. I believe that this provincial brand of
pragmatism downplays some of the most distinctive aspects of Peirce’s theory of signs, like the importance of primary ico-
nicity, abduction, and the genesis of signs. Hence, siding with Champagne, I argue that an eective Peircean taxonomy of
signs for object analysis depends on the ability to treat sub-tertiary signs independently of their eventual crystallization into
concrete habits of action. While degenerate signs like experiential qualities may not be fully-edged signs in themselves,
this should not be used to separate semiotic inquiries deemed appropriate from those presumably conducted by “the wrong
crowd.
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Must a Pragmatist Interested in Consciousness be Pragmatic 24 Hours a Day?
Champagne Marc
Diagrammatic Mind Project,Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
C. S. Peirce said, quite rightly, that if we want to make our ideas clear(er), then we should look downstream to their ac-
tual and potential eects. Yet, there is a tendency to overlook that this quintessential pragmatist recommendation is nested
in a conditional: if you want clarity, then you should do this and that. I see no reason why anyone should feel obliged, in
the strict deontological sense of a categorical imperative, to pursue intellectual clarity, come what may. Rather, that pursuit,
which nds its maximal expression in scientic inquiry, seems to be one among many. Of course, it is normal to think that, if
you are oered various options and you know which is best, then you should pick that best one. So, predictably, when Peirce
oers us three “grades of clearness” culminating in the pragmatic maxim, we naturally assume that the other two were there
mainly to rhetorically set the stage. However, the moment we do this, we walk away from the possibility of something not
dened by its causal or inferential role(s). Part of what has happened, I think, is that in their rush to be branded “naturalists,”
some pragmatists have lost sight of the fact that not everything is appropriately gauged by its current or anticipated practi-
cality. In Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs, I openly acknowledge that studying consciousness in its qualitative
“Firstness” will yield no tangible return on the investment. Yet, given that Peirce’s most primitive category admits of a pre-
scissive vindication, I argue that pragmatism is more plausible/palatable when it makes room for ineciency, in the double
sense of a respite from progress and an escape from ecient causation. Hence, I think pragmatists interested in conscious-
ness needn’tindeed shouldn’tbe pragmatic 24 hours a day.
Astronauts and Avatars: Exploring Consciousness
through the Art and Science of Embodiment
Chair:
Doyle Denise
Faculty of Arts, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UNITED KINGDOM
ursday, June 11, 2:30pm – 4:35pm
General Description In 2005 Sian Ede wrote a new aesthetic phenomenology is emerging via advances in digital technol-
ogy which might lead us to muse how far the paradoxically named ‘virtual’ brings us closer to lived experience’ (Ede, 2005,
p.111). How do artists and scientists approach the question of how the body relates to consciousness in the context of
new technologies? Neuroscientists Emily Cross and Luca Ticini suggest that art, like everything else we do, is generated
from electrical impulses passed between the synapses of the brain, expressed through the body, and eventually appreciated
through the senses’ (Cross and Ticini, 2011, p.11), whilst Ede writes that ‘we so sensuously inhabit our bodies that it is hard
to see them as systems of knowledge, even in the puried arena of the laboratory or operating table’ (Ede, 2005, p.133). is
symposia’s aim is to examine the relationship between the body and consciousness and seeks out the conditions in which,
through the creative processes of new media arts practice, and through scientic exploration in the elds of neuroaesthetics
and neurophenomenology, this relationship can be further understood and articulated.
It is oen in the investigations of artists that we can nd reections on the subjective relationship between the body
and consciousness. In the 1990s the new spaces of technology in virtual reality explored in the work of artist Char Davies,
and even in the outer space exploration of dancer and choreographer Kitsou Dubois, highlighted the question of what we
mean by the virtual, the weightless, or even the immaterial body. Curator Annick Bureaud commented how weightlessness
relates to cyberspace in that there are no privileged directions or hierarchies yet ‘weightlessness is inscribed in the limits of
the self and the human body’ (Bureaud, 2009, 4). Mikhail Ryklin reecting on his experience of zero gravity writes, ‘even
a temporary stay in states of weightlessness and double gravity changes one’s relation to the body and its terrestrial pos-
sibilities (Ryklin in Trisco & La Frenais, 2005, p.15). Reecting on her own experience of weightlessness Dubois wrote ‘it
was necessary [...] to concentrate on internal bodily space and the relation this holds with the surrounding space as well as
on the imaginary that emerges directly from this new body-space-time’ (Dubois in Kozel, 2007, p.110). Louise K. Wilson
notes however that what is ‘seldom mentioned is the actuality of being in a plane that is performing these diving maneovres’
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