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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 35, Issue 1/2, 2019

Cognitive Semiotics

Massimo Leone
Pages 251-268

On Insignificance

The article proposes a typology of meaninglessness based on the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce: meaningless as indecipherable; as incomprehensible; and as uncanny. Each type is exemplified with reference to anecdotic semiotic experience gained while riding Japanese buses. Meaninglessness, however, is not insignificance. Insignificance is a much more disquieting anthropological condition, which the article describes with reference to two symmetrical processes: on the one hand, the euphoric passage from significance to insignificance, a passage meant as the “birth of new meaning”; on the other hand, the dysphoric passage from significance to insignificance, a passage which coincides with the alienation of human existence. Through several examples take from present-day societies, the article advocates for an active role of semiotics in warning human communities against the “emergence of insignificance” and its potential of violence and exploitation.

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