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Goetzmann, L. Schwegler, K. (2004). Semiotic aspects of the countertransference: Some observations on the concepts of the ‘immediate object’ and the ‘interpretant’ in the work of Charles S. Peirce. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1423-1438.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1423-1438

Semiotic aspects of the countertransference: Some observations on the concepts of the ‘immediate object’ and the ‘interpretant’ in the work of Charles S. Peirce

Lutz Goetzmann and Kyrill Schwegler

The field of semiotics, established by Charles S. Peirce, is characterised by its recognition of non-linguistic signs and embedment in a communicative interaction; for this reason, it is especially well suited for a semiotic investigation of intersubjective processes. In this paper, the authors show how these inter subjective processes can be understood in semiotic terms within the transference-countertransference setting. Based on a case vignette, the relationship between the ‘real object’ (e.g. an unconscious fantasy) and the sign (e.g. a particular facial expression) is first demonstrated. In this mediation between sign and referent, an important role is played by the ‘immediate object’, by which Peirce understood the mental concept of a sign. However, a further component of the Peircian sign is responsible for the emergence of the countertransference, namely, the ‘interpretant’. The core of Peircian semiotics, namely the concept of an (infinite) process of signification, sheds light in semiotic terms on the dialectical movement between transference-signs and countertransference-signs, the interpretation and encounter between two subjects. The paper concludes with a discussion of both the interdisciplinary applicability of Peircian semiotics, for example in the context of the neurosciences, and the differences between the Peircian epistemological position and psychoanalytical conceptions of the objective cognition of mental processes.

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