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articles
1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Deborah Eicher-Catt Peirce, Dewey, and the Aesthetics of Semioethics: Felt Qualities, Embodied Intensities, and the Precarity of Relational Fulfillment
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This essay interrogates the aesthetic ground of Ponzio and Petrilli’s 2003 concept “semioethics” as activated by what they call a “logic of otherness”. I take my lead from Charles S. Peirce’s assertion that “Ethics, or the science of right and wrong, must appeal to Esthetics for aid in determining the summum bonum" (1903: CP 1.191). Given that Peirce’s esthetics, depicted as the first of his normative sciences, “ought to repose on phenomenology” (ibid.: CP 1.191), I offer a communicological analysis (i.e., a phenomenological interpretation of the operative aesthetic sign actions of a semioethic). To accomplish this, I turn to fellow American philosopher and pragmatist John Dewey, whose experiential aesthetics offers insights into Peirce’s claims. Dewey’s understanding of the importance of semiotic “form” and existential or embodied “rhythm”, when applied to dialogic relations, reveals phenomenological “felt qualities” and their reflexive semiotic relation to what I call “embodied intensities”. We discover that, when mediated by emotional or energetic interpretants, felt qualities and embodied intensities provide both the necessary and sufficient conditions for a logic of otherness that makes an ethical stance even possible. I contend that our human relationality remains precarious in our global, digitalized environment as long as we disregard or fail to perceive, appreciate, and cultivate this aesthetic phenomenological ground of otherness.
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2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Susan Petrilli, Augusto Ponzio Precarity and Insecuritas, between Fear of the Other and Apprehension for the Other: From Semiotics to Semioethics
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The sense of precarity is specifically human. It accompanies the consciousness that “what is” is in becoming and can stop being. All lifeforms live through signs, but we humans are also endowed with a capacity for metasemiosis. As semiotic animals, we have self-consciousness, feel responsibility, and feel apprehension: we are consciously aware of our subjection to precarity. G. Semerari called it insecuritas, in relation to both self and others. Fear “of the other” entails a threefold genitive: object, subject, and ethical (“for” the other) genitives. When concern for the other becomes overwhelming, the self may pass from non-indifference to indifference, an escape through identity: given competing identities, the other is not my concern. Yet the other remains inextricably involved, especially in globalization. Apprehension for the other cannot be eliminated. Semiotics explains this in terms of sign-network interconnectivity while “semioethics” develops the relations between signs and values. It insists that life can only flourish in relation to the other (including nonhuman life) and calls for responsibility.
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special section
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Martin Švantner Introduction: The New Prague School of Semiotics: Heritage and Outlook
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4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Vít Gvoždiak Ivo Osolsobě on General Semiotics in the Czech Tradition
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This paper attempts to reconstruct Ivo Osolsobě’s criticism of the notion that the Prague Linguistic Circle stood for or did, in fact, introduce general semiotics to Czechoslovakia. In the first part, it presents the wider context of the origins of Osolsobě’s critique. In the second part, it discusses the definition and analysis of the main reasons for this criticism (which included a close connection with language and a lack of reflection on basic semiotic concepts in the works of the Prague School) and sketches an alternative for general semiotics in the form of cybernetics and theater semiotics. The final section deals with the position of the most important representatives of general semiotics (Charles Peirce, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Louis Hjelmslev) for the Czech tradition.
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5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Michal Karľa On Peirce’s Earliest Conception of Metaphysics
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In this paper, I explore Peirce’s initial conception of metaphysics as developed in his “Treatise on Metaphysics” (1861–2: W 1.57–84). Peirce claimed therein that the idea of metaphysics was three-fold, with its three perspectives consisting of its definition, object, and method. Since Peirce defined metaphysics as the “philosophy of primal truths” (1861: W 1.59), I initially focus on elaborating upon what these “primal truths” are and illustrate that they are analytical propositions resulting from the logical analysis of the general constitution of a mental state (an image) to its elements. Next, I give account of how Peirce’s thoughts regarding the justification of metaphysical propositions resulted in his concluding that in metaphysical knowledge, like in any other, there is an element of faith. Finally, I conclude with remarks regarding Peirce’s notion of reflexivity as it is employed in his metametaphysics.
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6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Martin Švantner Agency as Semiotic Fabrication: A Comparative Study of Latour’s ANT
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This text shows that Latour’s methodological displacement of the theory of sign into the realm of the general semiological narrative itself truncates his own theory of sign from its essential part, which is a tradition derived from the work of C. S. Peirce. This reduction of the general theory of sign is not just a matter of the given theoretical and methodological jargon or arbitrarily chosen expressions; it also has binding ontological suppositions and consequences. A debate on the semiotic-ontological aspects of actor-network theory (ANT) can be conducted beyond Latour’s general division into “the semiotics of discourse” and the “semiotics of things/material semiotics”, where the “semiotics of things” should be counter-positional, or at least complementary to, the discourse-centric concept of agency. This perspective (simply put: discourse vs. things) can be viewed in the context of the discussion of the realist and nominalist nature of a sign as a specific relation, which begs the question: By sign do we mean a phenomenon that is constructed solely by the power of the human mind, or do we mean an ontologically unique relation not reducible to human language?
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7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Šárka Kadavá, Jordan Zlatev Interview: Cognitive Semiotics as an Emerging Discipline: An Interview with Jordan Zlatev
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article: visual semiotics
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Francesco Buscemi The Aryan Race of Animals: The Role Played by Colour in the Visual Semiotics of Nazi Propaganda
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This article analyses the role of colour in the representation of animals in Nazi propaganda. It demonstrates that colour, as applied to animals, was a communicational strategy of paramount relevance in setting boundaries and creating differences between the Nazis and their enemies. Drawing on propaganda studies, colour studies, and representational zoosemiotics, it semiotically investigates visual items published from 1923 to 1945. The results show that Nazi propaganda created an Aryan race of animals via colours. In fact, white animals always supported the regime’s ideologies; dark animals, conversely, very often symbolised the enemy (the Soviet Union, the Jews, and others). Semiotically, Nazi propaganda represented these animals as symbols, even though the links between signifier and signified were not shared within a community but only within the racist ideology of the Nazis..
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about the authors
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
About the Authors
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introduction
10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Andre De Tienne Orcid-ID Signs of Transition: An Editorial
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articles
11. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Nicholas L. Guardiano Transcendentalist Encounters with a Universe of Signs
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This essay aims to identify a semiotic consciousness found in New England Transcendentalism, consisting of the worldview that signs are pervasively present throughout nature and society. It finds that this worldview exists as a historical strand of thought stretching through the 19th century and, ultimately, further beyond, thereby making up an early movement in American semiotics. In this context, I furthermore see Transcendentalist thought informing the backdrop of Charles Peirce’s groundbreaking theory of signs later in the century, especially his metaphysical claims about a “universe . . . perfused with signs”1 (1906: EP 2.394). In order to bring into full view the presence of a semiotic consciousness in Transcendentalism, I first address the intellectual history and genealogical roots that helped shape the minds of the Transcendentalists. Relevant influences include those both local to New England and imported from abroad, in particular the theologies of Jonathan Edwards and of Emanuel Swedenborg. Next, I directly examine the ideas of the figurehead of the Transcendentalist movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, together with his Concord peers, Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau. Taking them as my case studies, I track the different ways a like-minded interest in signs takes shape within their individual projects. Focus-ing on their descriptions of nature, we find it in their experiences of the natural environment, their understanding of phenomena as representational and poetic, and their belief in the dialogical sharing of ideas across minds and species. Along the way, I further work out some of the aspects of a general theory of signs identifi-able within the Transcendentalist perspective, as well as distinguish it from other theoretical alternatives. Ultimately, I contend that the Transcendentalists held a similar idea of nature existing as a sign representing deep and varied meanings.
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12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Ionut Untea Orcid-ID Semioethics and the Average Life: Philosophical Harvesting from Arid Soils
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Concerning the public cultivation of the philosophical vocation, it can be said that some people become sowers, others become reapers, and still others, followers. However, from the followers’ perspective, sometimes the reapers may appear as sowers because they harvest ideas that they did not plant. In the context of globalization, those whose lives have been traditionally deemed “average”—and therefore insignificant—may become critical sources of inquiry for philosophy when it is seen as a way of life. I draw inspiration from semioethics, a branch of semiotics that does not focus on technical discourse, but instead advances the reflection upon signs as one of the most basic philosophical activities. With this perspective in place, even the so-called “average” person can engage in spiritual exercises, either by personally tailoring their way or by following reapers or sowers.
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13. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Geoffrey Ross Owens Semiotics and the Suburbs: A Phenomenological Analysis of Urban Frontier Settlements
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The term “Suburb” conjures up a range of images—from the African shanty towns to the affluent exurbs of major cities across Europe and North America. In nearly all cases, the emergence of suburbs is predicated upon the growth and diversity of cities, thus suggesting there is an evolutionary corollary to the evolution of complex societies. This article has two aims: first, to explore Peirce’s phenomenological tripartite evolutionary scheme as a way in which to rein in the disparate portrayals of suburban growth that have been documented throughout the world, and second, to empirically demonstrate its utility for understanding large-scale societal transformation that has given rise to suburban agglomerations and resulted in many convergent evolutionary changes over the past century.
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14. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Thaddeus Martin Jaspers on Communicology: The Scission Point Boundary Condition of Existence and Existenz
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A semiotic phenomenology of the scission point boundary condi-tion between Karl Jaspers’s concepts of existence and Existenz reveal them as fundamental distinctions that can manifest in healthy or pathological forms of communication, including the “inner action” of the competing “voices” “heard” by the patient undergoing treatment. My analysis illustrates that the mind, for Jaspers, represents how communicability as truth involves us in a natural rhetorical (tropic) relationship with a society. In this analysis, I frame the problematic boundary between existence and Existenz in the language of Husserl. To provide context, I introduce Jaspers’s semiotics and explicate his theory of communication. Lastly, I connect what we have learned from the scission boundary condition between existence and Existenz to the competing voices of the patient. We discover that for Jaspers, our “selves” are cyphers, striving for communicability in a world of others.
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review article
15. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
Dario Dellino Orcid-ID People and Words Reciprocally Educate Each Other: Semiotic Theory of Learning
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book review
16. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
W. John Coletta, Orcid-ID Ryan T. Polacek Critical Global Semiotics
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about the authors
17. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 1/2
About the Authors
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18. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif Orcid-ID Editorial Introduction: Design and Semiotics: The De-sign Constitution of Reality
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articles
19. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif Orcid-ID De-Sign as a Destiny of Negation: The Paradox of Sustaining Boundaries While Traversing Borders
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Boundaries and borders are undefined and ambiguous paradoxical phenomena, but there is a prevalent repudiation of their ephemerality and transitoriness. Crossing unaccustomed boundaries and traversing untried borders can be achieved by understanding the boundless scope of design and semiotics. Since the idea of design and the doctrine of signs are not restricted by either the humanities or sciences, De-sign (fusion of design and signs) is a boundaryless and transdisciplinary perspective that cannot tolerate cultural enclaves, social dogmas, and an insistence on absolute reality. Engaging in the de-sign process is a journey of negation through which human beings can traverse unfamiliar borders while maintaining their familiar boundaries. In negation, we experience paradoxical thinking and cognitive dissonance, which are associated with all antinomies intrinsic to De-sign. These antinomies can be endured by recognizing the audacity of design and the resilient role of signs. Negation goes beyond the perception of rigid borders and the acceptance of absolute boundaries, which frequently incite ethnocentrism and trigger xenophobia. The destiny of negation depends on a sense of wonder, awareness of epistemological fallibilism, and uncommon sense in order to persevere through contradictions between distinctiveness and sameness. Axiologically, where establishing boundaries can maintain identities, traversing borders can never diminish distinctiveness. Paradoxically, by delving into unfamiliar boundaries and crossing over untried borders, we discover ways to transform our own boundaries and reframe our conception of borders. Boundaries are more than barriers; the distances between them are bridges of invisible relations for thrivability and breakthrough insights.
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20. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Tiago da Costa e Silva On the Edge of the Unknown: A Relational Account of Intentionality, Formativity, and Transgressiveness of the Process of Design
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The present paper intends to discuss the process of design and its peculiar location at the threshold between the unknown (the insecure place with unknown order) and already established, well-accepted knowledge. The process of design is known for its catalyzing possibilities, often suggesting connections between conceptions, ideas, and solutions to problems by linking an initial formulation with the innovative and upcoming development of a project within a given design context. Thus, the process of design has the power to provide a space for playing, where experiments of thought, the testing of conceptions, the assembling of elements of these conceptions, and the serendipitous conflation of different parts of ideas can take place. Charles S. Peirce’s theory of inquiry—with especial emphasis on the systemic character of semiotics in relation to phaneroscopy, esthetics, logic of abduction and pragmatism—informs the chosen theoretical framework of this paper. Because it also emphasizes the process of discovery, Peirce’s theory of inquiry will be here mobilized to analyze, within the theory of the design process, the transition between critical predicament and an undecided—still to be formed—future. This task consists of stating in futuro the unthinkable in order to render any design project feasible.
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