Kahulugan, Katotohanan, Katwiran: Pagpapakilala sa Semiotika ni Charles Sanders Peirce
This essay elaborates on crucial aspects of the semiotics of American pragmaticist Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) and applies them to two Filipino texts: “Three O’Clock in the Morning” by Cirio H. Panganiban and “Kristal na Tubig” by Antonio Rosales. Delivered first in 2 March 2012 as part of the Kritika Kultura lecture series at Ateneo de Manila University, the essay makes a number of distinct yet interrelated claims before proceeding to an interpretation of the aforementioned texts. First, San Juan points out the communal (“komunidad”) underpinning of Peirce’s formulations: San Juan argues that only within a social context—where agreed-upon methods, principles, and processes operate—can the tripartite division of Peirce’s thought become valid. The second argument pertains to Peirce’s objective in semiological work: for San Juan, Peirce’s fundamental aim is to arrive at a sense of belief (“pagtakda ng paniniwala”), however provisional and subject to correction. Such an understanding is achieved only after a long process of socially-undergirded inquiry where nothing is taken for granted and deeply-held assumptions are investigated (“paghahanap ng kasunduan sa pangkat ng mga matiyagang nagsisiyasat”). According to San Juan, Peirce considers semiotics as an organon of inquiry that endeavors to articulate effective research principles in any of the (human and social) sciences (“makapagdudulot ng mabisang prinsipyo sa pananaliksik sa anumang siyensiya”).
San Juan’s third claim argues for, and elaborates on, Peirce’s tripartite scheme: Firstness (Qualisign), Secondness (Sinsign), and Thirdness (Legisign). The Qualisign refers to signs of possibility and icons that resemble—but are not—things (“icon na kahawig ng bagay; tanda ng posibilidad”). The Sinsign—which is equivalent to the index—refers to the realm of actuality (“larangan ng aktuwalidad”) and the interaction with things and their context: a sign of the real existence of things in the world. The Legisign refers to overall rules and regulations (“pangkalahatang regulasyon o panuto”) which link Qualisign and Sinsign: laws, behaviors, conventions, and regularities (“batas, ugali, nakagawian, regularidad”). For San Juan, what is crucial is that the numerous semiotic elements which comprise Peirce’s system are grounded on a specific historical moment (“sitwasyong pangkasaysayan na nagbubuklod sa senyas, semiotikong bagay, at interpretant”).
Once Peirce’s interpretive framework is established, San Juan offers readings of “Three O’Clock in the Morning” and “Kristal na Tubig” as well as an engagement with a number of previous interpretations of the texts, most notably by Virgilio Almario. For San Juan, “Three O’Clock in the Morning”—contra what he suggests to be Almario’s moralistically- inflected and conservative reading—interrogates the disappointment, paradox, and disaster caused by succumbing to the attractions posed by Western capital: a romance without consummation. Moreover, central to “Kristal na Tubig” is the image of the Pieta: for San Juan, the religious underpinnings of the image, along with its embedment in a community steeped in Catholicism, accounts for the forcefulness of the story.