Firstness and Phenomenology—Peirce and Husserl on Attitude Change

  • Jan M. Broekman


Close encounters between Peirce and Husserl elucidate ties between Semiotics, Law and Philosophy. Peirce’s idea of firstness, consequently followed by secondness and thirdness, has been widely discussed in many Peirce texts and interpretations. The idea is a key concept that inspired semiotics. We conclude in hindsight that not thirdness but firstness needs full attention in philosophy and semiotics. Explaining firstness as an attitude inherent to the sign, Peirce refers to phenomenology as a major field of semiotics, so that semiotics can reveal the structure of legal thinking. There are remarkable parallels to this firstness in twentieth century philosophy. We highlight the “Einstellungsänderung”, (attitude change, or change of approach) in Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, which makes us understand the complex structure of transcendental phenomenology in its close relationship with semiosis and semiotics. Peirce and Husserl accompany and even foreshadow the linguistic turn of modern philosophy and its implicit phenomenology of social relations. We need to decide whether semiotics is only to be applied in legal practice and legal scholarship, or the application be transcended in the law-semiotics relationship by changing its predominance and stimulating an attitude change, for instance as re-engineering law through its semiotic approach. This also depends on the question what materials might determine future legal cases. Semiotics is important where virtual reality, and where dimensions of reality created by nanotechnology play a predominant role in the context of our future cases. The character of firstness changes and highlights the relevance of semiotics.


Attitude Change Legal Discourse Transcendental Phenomenology Train Driver Legal Language 
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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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dickinson School of LawPenn State UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA

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