On Interpretative Activity

A Peircian Approach to the Interpretation of Science, Technology and the Arts


Using the ideas of the American scientist and philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, three conceptions of interpretation can be distinguished: the Iconic, the Indexical and the Intellective. This trichotomy is based on Peirce’s use of his sign theory and his logic of scientific discovery. The Iconic captures what is valuable in itself for an individual interpreter as opposed to the Indexical which is available for public appreciation as an outcome beyond Interpretative activities. The Intellective extends the Iconic to include the interpretative activities of groups of interpreters employing appropriate methods of inquiry in a more rigorous and rational way. Such distinctions can be used in confronting certain problems in science, technology and the arts.


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Biographical Note

Noel E. Boulting BA. Birkbeck College, University of London (1972); M.Sc. London School of Economics (1975); Ac. Dip. Institute of Education, University of London (1967). Author of To Be or Not to Be Philosophical (Peterborough: Upfront Pub., 2003).

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Introduction 1. On Using the Term ‘Science’ 2. Making Sense of Science and Technology 3. The Status of Works of Art 4. Art in Society 5. Within the Interpretative Process 6. The Problem of Reification Appendix: Objections to the Iconic Conception of Artworks Bibliography Index


All those interested in the writings of Charles S. Peirce and Joseph Margolis, aesthetics, pragmaticism, semiotics, the philosophies of technology and science, as well as those concerned with different kinds of interpretative activity.