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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 79, Issue 3, Summer 2005

John Deely
Pages 461-481

Defining the Semiotic Animal
A Postmodern Definition of Human Being Superseding the Modern Definition “Res Cogitans”

As modernity began with a redefinition of the human being, so does postmodernity. But whereas the modern definition of the human being as res cogitans cut human animals off from both their very animality and the world of nature out of which they evolved and upon which they depend throughout life, the postmodern definition as semeiotic animal both overcomes the separation from nature and restores the animality essential to human being in this life. Semiotics, the doctrine of signs suggested by Augustine and theoretically justified by Poinsot, developed in our own day after Peirce, introduces postmodernity by overcoming the Kantian epistemological limits on the side of ens reale and showing the social constructions superordinate to ens reale as essential to animal life.