Re: Aesthetics, PCP and broaders issues in general.

Esteban Laso (
Wed, 20 May 1998 14:18:07 -0500


Gary Blanchard wrote:

>I noted in your prior post your comment:
>"Pierce and Wittgenstein pointed out something very close -that we live
>inside a world of words, and that we can't rest over an external reality
>to ultimately validate them."
>Would you be willing to expand on this, and suggest any implications you
see for
>us today, wjther we are Personal Construct Psychology professionals or
>I would be most appreciative.
>Sincerely, Gary

Sure -altought i'm not a professional linguist!
Let's start with Peirce. Lacan, the postfreudian Charles Smith quoted, tried
to reframe Freud's theory inside of the linguistic and semiotic structure
provided by Ferdinand de Saussure, who believed that a sign (for instance,
the written word "tree") was composed of a signifier -the sign's material
form: the letters "t-r-e-e"- and the signified -the meaning associated with
the signifier: the concept of "tree". Peirce proposed a triadic model: a
representamen, the form taken by the sign; an interpretant, which is not the
interpreter if the sign but rather the sense made of it; and an object to
which the sign refers. Altought Peirce mentions a "real" object while
Saussure doesn't, he also proposed that _every sign is interpreted by means
of another sign (the interpretant)_, and that _nothing is a sign unless it's
interpreted as a sign_ (by somebody). Since, from his point of view, we
can't think without signs, and since every sign leads to another sign (this
is sometimes called "unlimited semiosis"), we live inside of a linguistical
world whose boundaries we are unable to overcome. There is no "intuition",
no direct apprehension ef an "external" reality. We are bounded by signs.

Wittgenstein is often quoted as saying "the meaning of a word is the use of
that word" -that's not the exact phrase, which can be found in his
Philosophical Inquires, paragraph 43. in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,
5.6, he says: "_The limits of my language_ means the limits of my world". (i
'm translating my Spanish original). In this, his first book, he is akin to
a referentialist model of meaning: "2.223 To know if a figure is true or
false, we have to compare it with reality". But in his late works he shifts
to a performative model: "403 [SOmething] is true only to the extent in
which is an unshakable foundation of his games of language" (On certainty).
These "games of language" are rooted in the "ways of living" we learn as
children: "23 ... to talk a language is part of an activity or a way of
living" (Philosophical Inquires). Games of language can change -that change
bringing a change in concepts and ways of living: "63. If we imagine the
facts as different from what they are, some games of language lose
importance and others become important" (On certainty). And "370. ...the
absence of doubt belongs to the essence of the game of language, and the
question "How do I know..?" pulls one out of the game of language or else
supress it" (On certainty).
Isn't a part of the therapeutic task to arise doubts in the client's model
of things, and to carry with him an exploration of what could happen being
the facts "different of what they are"? Our task is not that of making him
"aware of reality"; we are set with him in changing that "reality" for the
good -helping him to slowly build new language games and, with them, new
Hope I've been clear! Any comments?