Introductory Editorial No. 21

By Marteinson, Peter | Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Introductory Editorial No. 21


Marteinson, Peter, Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué


Welcome to the twenty-first installment of our journal, which is devoted this time around to the importance of the intension.

Rather than let the reader attempt to guess at which of the numerous interpretations we mean, let us clarify right away: the sense intended here is general, and straightforward: a referent which is immaterial, i.e. which resides in the mind in the form of a representation. This is to be contrasted with the much easier concept of the extension, the material object "out there" to which a sign can refer.

Naturally, there is considerably less debate about the extension than about the intension. Questions about the "nature" or "essence" of material things are as old as scholarly endeavour itself. But the way in which we model that external object in our minds, the potential inaccuracies of such notions, and the possibility of additional psychological baggage being added, mean that intensions are a topic for which there is less likelihood of an obvious general consensus. As American logician Richard Martin put it, "the study of intensions is in its infancy." Of course, what he meant by this was that there was, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, no clear method for determining what makes one intension different to or the same as another, and therefore no way to determine how many kinds of intensions could be considered as useful entities in logic. …

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