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Peirce, Vygotsky and Concept Formation

Barnham, Chris; (2018) Peirce, Vygotsky and Concept Formation. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The purpose of this thesis to explore the theoretical similarities between Peirce and Vygotsky with respect to the process of concept formation. It is acknowledged that these two thinkers are seldom associated with each other in relation to the learning process. Peirce is seen as one of the founders of modern semiotics, but he is rarely linked with the activity of concept formation itself. Vygotsky, whilst associated with the latter, is not interpreted as a semiotician – even though he sometimes uses the terminology of signs. It will be argued in the course of this thesis, however, that their views are closer to each other than is commonly recognised and that this convergence derives from the influence of Hegel. In the case of Peirce, Hegel is often viewed in negative terms – as a philosophical legacy that Peirce is reacting against. It will be argued that this interpretation overlooks the deeper impact of Hegelian thought in terms of how Peirce constructs his semiotics. Indeed, an Hegelian interpretation of concept formation helps reframe Peirce’s account of the ‘mediating’ sign, the notion of the ‘determined’ sign, and the role of the ‘object’ in his triadic structure. Moreover, the reference point of Hegel creates an opportunity to re-evaluate Peirce’s icon, index and symbol. Hegel’s influence on Vygotsky is more frequently acknowledged, but seldom pursued in detail by commentators who often draw Vygotsky into a more social account of meaning construction. Full recognition of Hegel’s influence on Vygotsky, however, has the effect of reframing his notion of ‘mediation’, and making his account of concept formation less focused on the social dimension than is commonly recognised. The overall effect of these arguments is to reposition Vygotsky’s ‘natural history of the sign’ in a framework that parallels Peirce’s own account of sign formation. There remain, of course, important differences in the approaches of Peirce and Vygotsky, and these will be highlighted in the course of the discussion. But the broader perspective outlined below suggests that there should be greater recognition of their philosophical similarities.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Peirce, Vygotsky and Concept Formation
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10059118
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