Signs and Ideas

  • Lorin Anderson
Part of the Studies in the History of Modern Science book series (SHMS, volume 11)


Eighteenth-century considerations of language share a certain concept of the linguistic sign and its representative role in signification as well as a concept of the way in which this representative capacity of signs establishes speech and thought in their theoretical possibility and in their actual genesis. Yet this fact, fundamental though it may be, requires a certain amount of careful attention. For if the sign system is dominant its presence is also unobtrusive.1 Little consideration was given, for instance, to definitions of what was intended by a sign, something apparently not felt to be required as a point of departure when employing sign theory.2 D’Alembert’s article “Signe” in the Encyclopèdie, which does provide a definition, simply pieces together two passages, one from the Logique de Port-Royal and the other from Condillac’s Essai sur I’origine des connaissances:


Eighteenth Century Artificial Language Natural Sign Rational Thought Chapter VIII 
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  1. 4.
    Antoine Arnauld, The Art of Thinking: Port-Royal Logic, trans. James Dickoff and Patricia James (New York, 1964).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Encyclopédie, article on “Grammaire”. See also Hans Aarsleff, The Study of Language in England, 1780–1860 (Princeton, 1967), 15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorin Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryPortland State UniversityUSA

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