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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 25, Issue 3/4, 2009

Ralph Austin Powell
Pages 77-128

The Problem of Identifying More or Less Unitary Beings in Our World

This essay concerns the original use of signs that is species-specifically human, namely, the awareness that results from the difference between animal estimation of objects in terms of what is to be sought (+), avoided (–), or safe to ignore (ø), and what human understanding species-specifically adds to animal awareness of objects as involving “things” existing in their own right as not wholly or simply reducible to their relations to us as objects. Powell calls the species-specfically human awareness of objects the “transcendental realm”; and the ‘line of demarcation’ separating the semiosic awareness common to all animals as making use of signs from the semiotic consciousness of human animals as able to become aware of insensible relations as such triadically “considered as constituting the mode of being of a sign” (Peirce 1904: CP 8.332), Powell terms “ens primum cognitum”. Thus, Powell’s “transcendental realm” is the soil and ground common to all science, cenoscopic and ideoscopic alike, and hence the preconscious realm of metasemiosis wherein that species-specifically unique process is able to extend its roots and transform the “rational animal” of Greek and Latin thought into the “semiotic animal” of postmodern intellectual culture. “Humanesque analogy” is Powell’s term for the fact that the species-specifically human understanding is an awareness inescapably grounded in and having as its constant background and surrounding, as it were, the generically animal awareness of a world of perceptual objects related to ourselves as (+), (–), (ø).

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