The construction of meaning in a system of signs - Abductive inference as semiotic exegesis/interpretation
If we replace the surprising fact by the incomprehensible behavior of a person, then an abductive inference may help us to construct an intentionalist explanation through motives (reasons) that makes the behavior intelligible. All intentionalist or functionalist explanations in psychotherapy thus become interpretable as hypothetical constructions with abduction as their modus operandi.
(1) Observation: Person A shows behavior V in context K, utters x, etc.
(2) Hypothetical rule: A behavior x in context K has the meaning/function (f).
(3) Case/conclusion: A's behavior V has the meaning (f) (is motivated by f).
If we consider the mechanism in the semiotic plane, a sign is introduced as an unexplained result to which, by way of the construction of an encoding rule, or the application of a familiar encoding rule, meaning is or can be assigned (contexts, frames, etc. being of significance, too). Abduction, as a cognitive operation, creates the framework which makes it possible to attribute a singular meaning to signs. The interpretation of signs -- as the schema shows -- is always abductive, or in other words: the fundamental constructive principle of all semiotic interpretation is the finding or inventing of a hypothesis (abduction), i.e. the act of semiotic understanding on the part of a hearer can consist only in the attribution of meaning through a -- his/her -- frame of reference (encoding rule). Therefore, abductive inference is the basic principle of all hermeneutical procedures.
The construction of meaning in a semiotic system/system of signs - Abductive inference as the interpretation of signs, or as an intentionalist explanation
Peirce writes about abduction, that [...] It's only justification is that, if we are ever to understand things at all, it must be in that way." How do we proceed from seeing to knowing, from the affection of our senses to the description of our perception in languuage? Here, too, abductive procedures are at work: as soon as I describe my perception linguistically, I interpret non-verbal signs abductively and transform them into language in a rule-governed way. Against the background of abduction theory it is trivial that perceptual judgments are constructive in themselves, they are already interpretations. All perception is, therefore, in principle construction. Carrying out inferences, therefore, does not always involve conscious reflections before we reach our conclusions; frequently these inferential processes take place below our level of awareness.
Applying the theory of abduction to the brain brings out the precise logic of Maturana's theory of autopoiesis. For the observer, the brain thus becomes comprehensible as an autonomous organ of abduction which, under the control of internal "rules" (cognitive maps, memory) -- not fixed/determined by the external world -- neuronally encodes the stimuli (perturbations) impinging upon the sensory receptors (this would quite literally be "in-formare") and so generates information from those stimuli.
Abductive inferences are the kind of hypotheses that are logically invalid and must, therefore, be corroborated deductively (within conceptual systems and theoretical frameworks) as well as inductively, i.e., pragmatically, by experience. Knowledge becomes intelligible by way of its abductive incorporation into a coding system (semiotic system/system of signs) the logic of which forms the frame within which the facts (phenomena) acquire meaning by virtue of having become signs. As synthetic inferences are content-increasing only if they go beyond the information contained in the premises, and as the conclusion predicates of the subject something not available in the premises, our thinking cannot and must not remain merely deductive if we want to enlarge our knowledge. Furthermore, it is the central insight of the theory of abduction that there is no induction without a pre-existent hypothesis which has been inferred or constructed abductively. Thus the constructivist hypothesis is confirmed that knowing is a path emerging from walking, and that we can only enlarge our knowledge of the world by inventing hypotheses that prove to be viable in the process of searching for paths. The seeds of all kinds of ways of worldmaking are contained in abductive inference. In semiotic terms, an abduction functions as the incorporation of a sign into a coding system (minimal theories, hypotheses) the logic of which forms the frame within which the phenomena that have become signs acquire meaning. Abductive inference, in comparison with logical rationality, is para-logical, irrational. Still, it appears this mode of inference is the most relevant form of thinking at all.