© 2011, Jody Kolter


I begin my argument by questioning Peirce’s assumption that aesthetics exists only in the state of impulse and feeling (as opposed to method): if I can show how aesthetics necessitates reason, then abductive reasoning emerges as an aesthetic of creative logic useful for the interpretation of texts. Interpretation of the sign—Peirce defines the sign in terms of a triadic relation—to symbol (a word that stands for something that cannot be seen but is not meant to define or signify the object that it represents) evolution demands an aesthetic more than linguistic approach insofar as the symbol requires an interpretation that we attach randomly. I then draw on John Dewey who maintains that the highest transformative experience occurs at the non-cognitive level, and this experience gives way to the branching off of imagination, habit, and other ways to approach and create meaning. But where Peirce and Dewey dichotomize the cognitive and non-cognitive experience, I will show how the factual nature of an intellectual judgment does not preclude us from asserting an aesthetic judgment. The process of interpretation itself functions as a process of abducting (Peirce’s notion) between the observed fact and the law of nature in order to create a testable hypothesis—in this case, a meaning assigned to a sign. I will test this method of abduction by applying it to The Name of the Rose in two ways: I will use the symbol of the rose to test this interactionist theory of metaphor, and I will show how the labyrinth operates as a metaphor for the abductive model that informs my theory. If the abductive method works favorably in terms of drawing out an interpretable and useful aesthetic, then the abductive method ought to guide readers and writers in their literary aesthetic.

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