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.


interpretant, pragmatism, science of signs

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)