Assumptions: Let X be one of a fact, a set of facts, event, place, idea, statement, etc. with meaning. X may mean something different or nothing at all to a given person. The meaning of X is the set of statements and implications you can manifest from X. If you can't say anything connected to reality about X then it has no meaning to you. X is some object or structure that can be physical or abstract.
Question 1: What is the best word for X?
Question 2: Let X also have causal potential where causal potential means that X can cause you to take an action physically or mentally. What is the best word for X?
After thinking more about this I decided to draw a diagram and provide more detail.
The idea goes something like this: in any moment of experience data is streaming to your brain through your sensors, the raw low-level facts are transformed through multiple levels, you end up with high level facts (perhaps human understandable), these facts trigger associations from your stored memory to bring forth more facts from your knowledge, you combine the facts from the current moment with the associated knowledge, then this fact set is used in some sort of loop/chain processs to further and further get more facts, implications, interpretations, etc.
In case 1 X is the initial collection of facts. From the initial fact set X you can derive further facts, implications, beliefs, etc. Y is this collection of facts, derived either one step out or an arbitrary amount of steps out. Within Y is the “thing” be it an event, idea, place, statement, etc. In the Saussurean view X is the signifier and Y is signified. The “thing” (T), is part of Y so the “thing” is signified in this case.
In case 2 H is a fact set which contains T. From H you can derive fact set K where X is within K. X is included in K due to T within H. In this case you could say T is the signifier and X is signified.
Using the Saussurean view (assuming I’m understanding correctly) the “thing” can either be a signifier or signified depending on the situation. From this view is the “thing” just a sign?
The next obvious question is what would Pierce’s view say? In his model there are three parts, the sign (or representamen or sign-vehicle), object, and interpretant (or interpretant sign). To fit this model to the image above I’ll try to use a specific example.
You are an investigator and walk into a scene. There are various physical facts your senses detect that compose the scene. These facts are the set X. From X you can use your knowledge to derive further facts, implications, ideas, etc. This collection is Y. One of the “things” in Y might be the event of a murder having occurred in this scene. Let this event be T. So for case 1 the sign is the scene and one of the interpretants is T. The object is the actual murder that occurred in the past but you did not witness.
Now for case 2 imagine it is the next day and during lunch your boss mentions the murder from yesterday. At that moment the set of physical facts is the scene of the lunch. The sound waves are within this fact set. Through a process they are interpreted as T. Starting at this point. All the facts in the context are H in the diagram with T within. From there the process continues and you end up with the fact set K which contains X within. T is the sign-vehicle?, X is an interpretant-sign, and the object is once again the actual murder that occured.
Again, depending on the situation the “thing” is either a sign-vehicle or interpretant sign. So the “thing” is a sign?
Pierce’s model can get complex, so I might be wrong. I read this https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce-semiotics/ I have also never heard of semiotics before this question, so I might need to just read more.
Perhap semiotics is not the best for this or I’m misunderstanding? The fact space which generates the discourse space is the context in which the subject exists along with its meaning. So maybe it’s best to say the “thing” is the subject and the context is the seed from which the subject and its discourse space arises. “Thing” -> subject, “meaning” -> discourse space around the “thing”, context -> seed of physical facts in which a chain/loop process manifests a discourse space. Overall, three terms, “context”, “subject” (or “context subject”?), and “discourse space”. Meaning is dependent on context afterall, so perhaps this is a better set of names? Whenever you encounter the “thing” it is some context and this context can easily change the meaning of that “thing” in that moment compared to another context. Context contains the physical facts/patterns that trigger some discourse-generating/fact-expanding process that can be very shallow or very deep.
In the end for most people the words sign and subject mean something very different compared to what they mean here and in semiotics, so I’m not really satisfied with the word choice. More reading and thinking I suppose.
Another thought. Maybe my real question is: what is a word for a thing that can be interpreted in a particular context and has a nontrivial discourse space in that context? Or maybe simpler: what is a word for a thing with a nontrivial discourse space? Nontrivial here means discourse beyond “this thing exists”. The process is like this: you encounter a certain context, some mental chain process eventually adds the “thing” into your working set of facts (context), and the chain can continue from there to generate more things about the “thing” (something like semiosis?). The process can go arbitrarily far and ends up generating a discourse around the “thing”. In a sense the discourse generated is the meaning in that context of the “thing”. In this case, does anyone have a good answer for such a word?
I attempted many complex images but have doubts about their legitimacy. The following is the simplest I could draw.
Potential words: sign, signifier, subject, subject of attention, ...
Any help is appreciated. Thanks.