Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Susan Haack

Second Committee Member

Amie Thomasson

Third Committee Member

Sun-Joo Shin

Fourth Committee Member

Marvin Mielke


This work is a philosophical investigation of signs. It offers a definition of the term ?sign? and develops three different systems for talking precisely about signs and their properties. The system of object display lines is developed in the first chapter; the ostension notation and the box notation are developed in the second chapter; and the contemporary associationist definition of a sign is developed in the third chapter. These systems, in conjunction with the definition, are proffered as a philosophical foundation for the theory of notation. The first chapter of this work develops the distinction between i) mere objects (non-signs), ii) signs of mere objects, and iii) signs of signs. The exhibitive use of objects is distinguished from their constitutive use; and the de re use of signs is distinguished from their de signo use. Both the discursive homogeneity thesis and the sentential homogeneity thesis are formulated. Arguments against the former are considered, and the thesis is rejected. The latter thesis, however, is accepted as a means of stopping the infinite regress that would occur if the meaning of a sign always had to be explained through the use of other signs. Object display lines are developed as a systematic and rule governed method of introducing mere objects into a discourse. The second chapter deals with the problem of using signs to talk about signs; and offers both an historical analysis of the development of quotation marks as a form of punctuation, and an historical analysis of the philosophical debate over quotation marks. Frege?s convention of using quotation marks to mention signs is rejected, and the ostension notation and the box notation are developed as replacements. The third chapter deals with the nature of signs. The ontological status of signs is considered, and the thesis that signs are relations is rejected. This is followed by a brief historical survey of the associationist and behaviorist conceptions of a sign. Finally, a contemporary associationist conception of a sign is developed, and the basic structure of the human sign is postulated. A number of refinements are made to the definition to avoid pansemiosis.


Semiotic; Sign; Quotation; Theory Of Notation