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Horus' Eye

a belief as the supreme sign

I have chosen the image of the eye of the egyptian falcon God Horus to represent the top category of semiotic sign types because  
this God, also represented by a winged solar disk symbolizes the merciless look of the executioner, from who nothing of private or public life escapes; he watches over the strict observance of rites and laws. His legendary battle against Seth, the evil-doer, that he destroys but who blinds him one eye; shows the fight of the light against the darkness and the necessity of vigilance, to keep ones eyes open, pursuing eternity, avoiding the tricks of fiends and errors. 
He is ever battling to keep an equilibrium between contrary forces and to guarantee the power of the light. (notes 1 and 2)

In the case of the Red blue Chair of Rietveld we can affirm, after our preliminary analysis that it contains different signs (see the relevant pages), it is however still an open question what he really tried to express. The first impression is that this chair seems not to be designed to satisfy its basic seating function as many of its elements do not further the ergonomic functions at all, on the contrary: they pose severe limits to them. This certainly is not due to Rietveld's incompetence but to his intention to provoke the observer. The chair is obviously meant to be paradoxical. We might ask for example what kind of person Rietveld had in mind to be seated on his chair. It is improbable that he meant it to be a kind of throne because no symbols of power, like lyons or eagles, are present; it also not well suited for onlookers of the television, apart from the fact that in 1918 the television had still to be invented, or to listener of music, for its lack of comfortable upholstery. This chair is not designed even for economical reasons as it can not be produced cheaply as a considerable amount of handwork is necessary. 

I think that he had some type of modern intellectual in mind inclined to contemplate the chair before sitting on it and, whence seated, turn his attention to his environment that normally will be drastically incompatible with the chair's esthetic but that ideally would be an environment of utmost geometric simplification with the elimination of all redundant bourgeois decorations like the Schroeder house, that was actually to be built only in 1924. This man or woman would reconsider the works of man in a revolutionary way by enjoying pure colors, elementary forms, open transparent structures as the symbolic expression of a new society without hypocrisy, composed of democratic persons aspiring the formulation of a new language with simple formal expressions of equally reformulated interpretations, pointing towards an universal utopian harmony. 

The red blue chair means to express the classic ideal of the unity of esthetics and ethics in a modern way.


All signs and every semiosis inevitably point in the end to such a transcendent mystic point of emanation, in Peirce's words, to the * pinnacle of semiosis *, supposed to reside either inside ourselves or elsewhere (note 2). This semiosis is furthermore utopian, being * any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief necessarily incomplete * (CP.2.95-96) 

This top sign, sometimes named Argument, is call here * a belief *. In Peirce's words: 

An argument... is - or at least can potentially be - the consummated symbol, a sign cluster or compound sign. It is a representamen which does not leave the interpretant to be determined ... but separately represents what  is the interpreting representation that it is intended to determine. This interpretation is, of course, the conclusion (C.P.5.76). 
He defines an  Argument as : any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief (CP.6.457) 
Even the universe is  an * Argument *, or the * Ultimate Interpretant *, or a * Cosmic Poem * (C.P.5.1119), (note 3). 

In Peirce's terms, a text,  a combination of sentences, signifies ultimately the whole of the universe as a self referential Third or argument. An argument, collocated at upper symbolic level,  is the final sign of a decalogue, the concluding sentence, the ultimate interpretant (note 3). 


More modestly we comprehend here products as expressions with different signs on different levels of a design language. We have considered these signs in the example of the red blue chair of Rietveld,  in the single pages of this site. The underlying semiosis has, as all languages the twofold aspect: of the author expressing himself in his design language, and of the user, decodifying this language. Signs written and signs read. At this point we are capable to understand better how these signs are articulated. We can reassume the complete set of signs in the following way: 
  Peirce invites us to investigate not only into these signs but also into the articulated process of their becoming, semiosis, and its negative complement, the deconstruction of the different levels in trivialization, the loss of sense and meaning of signs in what today we would call the postmodern mass consumer society. 

Here now we touch the deeper reason for design as a way to contrast this degenerative process. The consumer, stimulated by the exterior aspect of the product, the skin,  is eventually induced to reconsider everyday gestures in a new light, discovering within the rite of ordinary behavior a new meaning of life. Rietveld's chair is an example of a product of daily life that implies such a reconstruction of lost rituality. 


This crown is also a crown of the roots of the, upside down, tree of life. This is the fount of creation, the center crystallized in the midst of Non being, containing within it the potentialities of all to come. It is the comprehension of the First Principle, which hath no beginning ... All  subsequent creation from the pure force of Kether is a gradual concretion into form of one divine force. Form is force locked up into patterns of its own makings. Force is that which is released when the patterns or forms are broken. Force and form are one and the same. (note 4) 
Kether was created from En Soph, the Nothing. Peirce's interest in the Cabbala is truly evident in his remark on this evolutionary process:   * the evolutionary process began from a state of nothingness,  an initial condition in which the whole universe was non-existent * (CP. 6.215) 

The Cabbala uses the light metaphor for the emanation of this divine power as we can read in this citation from the Zohar, the canonical text of the Cabbala, of the thirteenth century: 

Rabbi Isaac said, "The light created by God in the act of creation flared from one end of the universe to the other and was hidden away, reserved for the righteous in the world that is coming, as it is written: 'Light is sown for the righteous.' Then the worlds will be fragrant, and all will be one. But until the world that is coming arrives, it is stored and hidden away." 
Rabbi Judah responded, "If the light were completely hidden, the world would not exist even for a moment! Rather it is hidden and sown like a seed that gives birth to seeds and fruit. Thereby the world is sustained. Every single day, a ray of that light shines into the world, keeping everything alive; with that ray God feeds the world." (note 5)
This was perhaps what Rietveld had in mind creating his Red an Blue Chair.
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note 1 traduced from: J.Chevalier and A.Gheerbrandt, Dictionnaire des Symboles, Ed.Laffont Jupiter, Paris, 1969, Rizzoli, Milan, 1986, voice Horus
note 2 You can find more information about the Horus Eye in the following sites:     
note 2 Floyd Merrell, Floyd Merrell, his ‘Semiosis in the Postmodern Age’, Perdue University Press, Indiana, 1995, p.213
note 3 Floyd Merrell, Signs Grow. Semiosis and Life Processes, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1996, p.295
note 4 Gareth Knight, A practical Guide to Quabalistic Symbolism, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, USA, 1993 (1965), p.66
note 5 Daniel C.Matt, Kabbalah. The heart of Jewish Mysticism,  Harper, San Francisco, Paperback, 1996 (1994), p.90