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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 32, Issue 1/4, 2016

Semiotic Animal

W. John Coletta, Seema Ladsaria, Dylan Couch
Pages 17-34

The Unleashing of John Deely’s “Semiotic Animal”

Our purpose in this essay is twofold: to explore John Deely’s “semiotic” or “contextualized animal” as also a “contextualizing animal”, one that not only responds in context but one that changes first the context so as later to change itself—as all living things do; and to explore how this context-shifting “semiotic animal” has caused to emerge the very “signs upon which”, as Deely writes, “the whole of life depends”. Environmental ethics are inseparable from personal ethics, then, because (1) we are in fact ourselves environments for others, (2) we carry models of our environments within us (our genetic / ontogenetic selves), and (3) even our free will (the basis of ethical choice) is an “environmental” phenomenon, as Martin Heisenberg argues in Nature (14 May 2009: 164–165) and as Deely writes in Semiotic Animal: “signs do not fall strictly among the things objectified by perceptions of sense but act prior to that perception to enable it to reconstruct the physical environment along objective lines that are meaningful to the species” (Semiotic Animal: A Postmodern Definition of Human Being Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism [2010]: 119)

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