First, Second & Third Impressions of Love

Second or Thirdness?
The other day I was reading an article on Aeon about the brilliant American philosopher, mathematician and scientist S. C. Pierce and his ideas regarding semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and sign processes, or an investigation into how meaning is created and how meaning is communicated.

For Peirce, humans know all things in one of three ways: by firstness, secondness or thirdness. Roughly speaking, firstness is an initial impression, e.g. ‘I see something red.’ A human body is a sign of firstness. I have my eyes stimulated by a bodily appearance in an experience of firstness.

Secondness is a clearer perception of the distinctive features of the object – in our case the person, and is based on contrast or comparison with another perceptual experience. In the opposition of two, each becomes clearer. A person’s behavior is perhaps a sign of secondness.

When I then understand something well enough to generalise about it, my knowledge is of the level of thirdness. Now, we might be talking about the character of the person’s mind/body.

People say that you can only make a first impression once. True. It is also a scary thought, especially for prospective singles when they meet for a first time. But how important is a first impression? How lasting or weighty is that first impression? It perhaps depends on the mindset or attitude of the beholder (perceiver).

Singles with a healthy sense of self-interest will probably not simply stop at a first impression, and will likely give the second and perhaps third impression a chance.

Why healthy sense of self-interest? What do I mean by self-interest? Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires (interests) of one’s self. We are not talking about self-absorption, selfishness, or self-centeredness, etc. Self-interest, for the sake of our case, speaks to behavior or activities that are advantageous to an individual. I argue that for an individual to survive and grow, a degree of self-interest is necessary. Self-interest is a motivating force. Because of it, people cooperate and compete with each other. Selflessness, on the other hand, is only an attitude and can, at best, tone down excessive, inner drives. Not even a little wall flower survives on selflessness alone.

In other words, smart folks go by second impressions!

So, what about that famous “love at first sight?” Well, we all know that it may not last very long. Second and third impressions will sooner or later come along to make their impact. Dating singles with a healthy sense of self-interest should understand that as well.

However, this does not mean that love at first sight cannot survive the years that follow. Second and third impressions might just confirm what the first impression offered: a dream come true…

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One thought on “First, Second & Third Impressions of Love”