Semiotics 1980 pp 241-254 | Cite as

Peirce as Catalyst in Modern Legal Science: Consequences

  • Roberta Kevelson


In 1903 Peirce writes to Lady Welby in response to her book What Is Meaning. Here he says that words, as signs, have three levels of meaning: the lowest grade of meaning is the basic, instrumental use of words “in communicating our knowledge to others and in getting at the knowledge that these others seek to communicate to us”; the second level of meaning involves the responsibility, intention, and commitment of the person who conveys the message; the third, highest level of meaning attaches to the consequences of the message. Peirce says that “besides the consequences to which the person who accepts a word knowingly commits himself to, there is a vast ocean of unforeseen consequences which the acceptance of the word is destined to bring about, not merely consequences of knowing but perhaps revolutions of society” (CP 8.176). It is immediately apparent that these three levels of meaning correspond to the three divisions of Peirce’s Normative Sciences: to his extended Logic, his Ethics, and his Esthetics which he understands as the “science of value” (CSP-FCSS 5. 12.05; CP 5.36, 5.111ff., 5.533, 535).


Legal Reasoning Indexical Sign Legal Philosophy Legal Positivism Legal Thought 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Kevelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research in SemioticsBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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