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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 31
Tasks for Semiotic Research

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ssa presidential address 2013
1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
André De Tienne Why Semiotics? A Question Requiring a Fundamental Answer for Peirce's Sake
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This address begins with a few historical considerations regarding the foundation of the Semiotic Society of America and how the founders came to define the purpose of the Society as that of advancing the study of signs. The question of what it means to ask “Why semiotics?” is then taken up, introduced, and framed within a strictly Peircean framework. How would Peirce have answered it, he the paramount logician of signs? Taking inspiration from his 1902 essay “Why Study Logic?”, of Peirce’s answer to that seminal question I extend important elements to semiotics understood as logic in a much broader sense than Peirce’s 1902 conception of logic. Then I make it clear that Peirce’s approach to our main question would have been as demanding and rigorous as the spirit in which he expected semiotics to be studied: in a genuine scientific spirit of fundamental inquiry. I expand about Peirce’s conception of fundamentality, and then show how it entails properties that are common to a particular class of fundamental concepts Peirce called “continuous predicates”. Taking advantage of a recent publication by Francesco Bellucci on the subject, I illustrate what makes continuous predicates so special, and how it is that Peirce’s general definition of a sign relation conforms exactly to the inherent form of continuous predicates. This has a direct consequence on the definition of semiotics itself, and thus on the expression of its most fundamental purpose, which is then spelled out. The address concludes with considerations about what it would take to accomplish such a fundamental purpose.
articles—semiotics and logic
2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Christopher S. Morrissey A Logic Without Nominalism: Existential Assumptions on the Aristotelian Square of Opposition Revisited
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The logical structure of the categories may be seen in the three fundamental oppositional relations assumed by the traditional formal logic of Aristotelian syllogistic. These fundamental oppositional relations are currently preserved in Term Functor Logic (TFL) but not in Modern Predicate Logic (MPL). Derivations of the immediate inferences traditionally permitted on the Aristotelian square of opposition are made using the rules of TFL in order to contrast TFL’s logical capabilities with those of MPL. It is argued that logic does not need any existential assumptions for a proper interpretation of the square; rather, all that is required are the three oppositional assumptions preserved in TFL but not in MPL. After considering TFL in relation to Peirce’s existential graphs, three suggestions are made: Firstness is most fundamentally understood in logical terms as the contrary opposition of terms; secondness is most fundamentally understood in logical terms as the predicative opposition of predicates affirmed or denied; and thirdness is most fundamentally understood in logical terms as the quantitative opposition of subjects. A famous example from Socrates in Plato’s Apology is used to illustrate these claims.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Barry Stampfl Instinctive Wisdom and Trauma-Driven Abductions
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Trauma and Peircean abduction are topics that seem worlds apart, and yet it is my view that bringing them together potentially might pay dividends both for the study of trauma and for the study of abduction. A necessary point of departure for the critical articulation I have in mind is the positing of a common ground: in what sense, if any, does the making of abductive inferences intersect with psychological/cognitive processes underlying traumatization? The key to answering this question is the decision to focus on a hitherto unexamined subcategory of abductive inferences: trauma-driven abductions. In this essay, having briefly discussed materials from trauma studies and from abduction studies that help to contextualize the possibility of trauma-driven abductions, I will explore their pertinence to a perennial puzzle in abduction studies, Peirce’s insistence in his later writings that abduction is both inferential and instinctive. Developing the suggestiveness of an example provided by the Peirce scholar Christopher Hookway to illustrate how an abduction may inspire uncontrollable belief without ceasing to be reasonable, I will show how materials from trauma studies allow us to specify how instinct shapes the creation/selection of abductive speculations in special cases where the surprising facts initiating hypotheses are composed of environmental cues evocative of extreme fear. In this way my essay provides new support and clarification for Peirce’s insight that instinct and inference are both integral to the production of abductive hypotheses.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Priscila Borges A System of 21 Classes of Signs as an Instrument of Inquiry
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Peirce’s classes of signs are instruments of inquiry, and, as such, they have an effective analytical power. We can find in Peirce’s texts four systems of sign classes that vary from having 3 to 66 classes. The system of 66 classes brings up the idea that to better represent a sign process, it would be necessary to consider an aspect of the sign before considering the relation that involves that aspect. However, if one observes the trichotomies in the system of 10 sign classes, this method, which seems very reasonable, cannot be applied, for before considering the sign-object and the sign-interpretant relation, Peirce only proposes the examination of the sign itself. Considering the development of Peirce’s semiotics, I propose to look back to the system of 10 classes and add to it the trichotomies that will allow the consideration of every aspect of a relation in itself before examining it within the relation. This process brings up a system of 21 classes of signs, which will be suggested as an instrument of inquiry. The aim of this paper is not only to deduce the system of 21 classes, but also to allow the reader to understand how each class represents a step in a semiotic inquiry. With that in mind, I will work on an example of how to proceed with a semiotic analysis using the system of 21 classes.
in brief—semiotics and logic
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Michal Karľa Peirce’s Doctrine of Man-Sign and its Logical Antecedents
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The aim of this paper is to point out certain features of Peirce’s earlier logical thought which have bearing upon his thesis that man is a sign. After the brief overview of the thesis itself, attention is paid to Peirce’s concept of the “unity of symbolization” (part I) and its relation to Kant’s “unity of apperception” (part II). It is explained how Peirce understands apperception as bringing representations together, i.e., being represented together, and how this approach is in accordance with Peirce’s general anti-psychological standpoint. The doctrine of man-sign is first seen as a result deduced from the hypothesis that laws of logic have primacy before the laws of the mind, and this result can then (part III) be seen as a further confirmation of that hypothesis. By showing that there is no substantial difference between consciousness and other species of signs, Peirce is able to work out the notion of knowledge not bound to individual consciousness but to all-encompassing community of inquirers.
book review
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Louis Hébert Semiotics and Buddhism: Around Fabio Rambelli’s A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics
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This article provides a review of A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics by Fabio Rambelli (2013) while also broadening the scope of its evaluation to the review author’s own considerations “around” semiotics and Buddhism. After summarizing the general structure of the book, this review provides a qualitative evaluation of the book’s treatment of these two major themes: Buddhism and semiotics. It then approaches the question of interdisciplinarity, both in general and in relation to the book in particular. It discusses the two great anthropological perspectives: the emic (or external approach to a studied culture) and the etic (or internal approach to a studied culture). Finally, this review identifies three major ways of conceiving semiotics and the semiotic in relation to three spheres or levels (physical, semiotic and representational).
ssa presidential address 2014
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Elliot Gaines Everyday Semiotics: The Paradox of a Universal Discipline
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The marginal status of semiotics in society and the academic world is a paradox. Semiotics is not only relevant to every field of inquiry, but is a universal aspect of everyday experiences. Yet even among those that advocate the study of signs, the notion of calling semiotics an academic discipline is controversial. Like any academic area, the language and concepts of semiotics exclude the uninitiated. Ironically, just as the study of semiotics predicts, opinions and beliefs vary and disagreements commonly occur because of a tendency to interpret the world according to cultural habits rather than through critical logic supported by systematic and verifiable evidence. Especially in an age of global media, semiotics provides an effective way to examine messages representing ideas, and communicating values, beliefs, ideologies, and agendas.
articles—semiotics and art
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif Reality Beyond Humanities-Science Schism: Revealing the Mutuality of Design and Semiotics
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What we perceive is not reality itself but reality exposed to our way of perceiving. By relying on the autonomous separation between humanities and science, we seem to have developed a tendency to experience reality in ways that enable us to perceive more of what we value. More than the traditional disciplines of the two dominant cultures of humanities and science, design transcends our assumptions about reality and reveals the hidden connection between factual information and imaginative interpretation. Reality in a transmodern world is a hyperreality, where human beings are able to transform what has been in existence by design. The mutual interrelation between design and semiotics provides the opportunity not only to cross the perceived boundaries among the real, the true, and the imaginary, but also to overcome the humanities-science schism.
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Ibrahim Taha Reading Literature: From Decoding to Remodeling
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Understanding, empathizing, sympathizing, communicating, knowing, and changing, attained through reading literature, are all natural human needs for survival. Survival in its broadest meanings, in Sebeok’s sense, involves all kinds of activities for improving life. Taking reading literature as a special competence for surviving, a quality/competence specific to humans alone, necessitates two primary activities: awareness and modeling. Awareness refers to humans’ knowing the very fact that they are in a persistent state of needing. Modeling refers to the very need for semiotic strategies so that they can use any natural human activity, such as cognitive and emotional interaction, in any process of interpretation. If the reader treats her/his reading activity as naturally purposive and meaningful, s/he will be able to model this activity so as to maximize the benefits. Knowing the benefits implied in reading literature, the reader will consciously or unconsciously categorize all aspects of this activity in various forms and models. Modeling in this sense is organizing knowledge, but also concretizing knowing. Thus, reading literature improves the readers’ relations with their environment by knowing more about the way humans think, but also by generating new texts, namely, producing new ways of knowing. Knowing authors’ knowing is one of the major purposes of reading literature. Knowing of knowing is the naturalizing process of the culture, and as such it is a question of anthroposemiotics. The anthropsemiotic approach to reading literature is not concerned with understanding itself but the way we conduct understanding and the use of such an understanding. Producing new meanings and new ways of knowing from existing knowledge is undoubtedly an evolutional property specific to humans as verbally communicative organisms.
in brief—semiotics and art
10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Daniel Fawcett Modern Medievalism: Rediscovery of the Medieval Reader
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This article looks at the medieval culture of reading, and suggests that medieval readership and modern reading strategies have significant points of contact including a tolerance for ambiguity, engagement with chains of intertextuality, and an embrace of the fragmentary nature of knowledge. It argues that the medieval reader was not a superstitious bumpkin, but rather a sophisticated interpreter within a complex system of signification. The medieval reader engaged in sophisticated coding, decoding, and recoding. While this article argues for similarity of strategic modes of reading between the medieval scholar and modern reader, similarities should not be mistaken for equivalencies. Where the modern reader embraces intertextuality for its own sake, the medieval reader’s assumption of divine truth served as an anchor to the chain of intertextuality. This article examines Umberto Eco’s reading of Dante’s theory of language to give us insight into medieval approaches to signification, and applies those insights to St. Augustine’s Confessions. As one of the “four doctors” of the Catholic Church, Augustine served as a model of readership for many theologians to follow. St. Augustine’s practices of readership and signification would establish a practice of reading as encoding and decoding sophisticated networks of signs.