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81. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Richard Currie Smith Introduction by the Guest Editor
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articles
82. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Edward J. Baenziger, CSB From Maritain’s Thoughts on the Micro-sign to the Science of Semiotics
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Jacques Maritain’s discussion of the micro-sign leads us to question how signs get interpreted, from the least to the most complex forms of communication, while John Deely’s treatment of both cenoscopic and ideoscopic interpretation lies in the distinction between attraction, repulsion, and indifference. I add the key concept of inter-reaction, symbiosis, that allows for cooperation within and among all organisms. Using quantum physics and cathexis to delve the mystery of cellular sign values and beyond, we, the semiotic animal, better comprehend our own nature and that of the living world through semiotics.
83. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
W. John Coletta, Seema Ladsaria, Dylan Couch The Unleashing of John Deely’s “Semiotic Animal”
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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)
84. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Silver Rattasepp, Kalevi Kull The Semiotic Species: Deelying with Animals in Philosophy
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Animals are treated in philosophy dominantly as opposed to humans, without revealing their independent semiotic richness. This is a direct consequence of the common way of defining the uniqueness of humans. We analyze the concept of ‘semiotic animal’, proposed by John Deely as a definition of human specificity, according to which humans are semiotic (capable of understanding signs as signs), unlike other species, who are semiosic (capable of sign use). We compare and contrast this distinction to the more standard ways of drawing the distinction between humans and animals.
85. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Christopher S. Morrissey Analogy and the Semiotic Animal: Reading Marshall McLuhan with John Deely
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Thanks to a helpful tetradic diagram found in the expanded fifth edition of John Deely’s Basics of Semiotics, in which the context and circumstances of a sign’s utterance (in addition to the sign-vehicle itself and the immediate object of the sign) is distinguished from all that is explicit in the sign itself apart from the context and circumstances of its utterance, it is possible to bring Deely’s insights to bear upon the semiotically suggestive work of Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan’s implicitly semiotic understanding of analogy is structurally present in his efforts to visually articulate the “laws of media” with his own “tetrad” diagrams. Deely’s discussion of the irreducible triadicity of signs therefore illuminates McLuhan’s attempt to understand how analogical thought actually works on the most fundamental structural level in the cognition of the semiotic animal. There is a unique cognitive syntax to analogy, which is operative in the animal that Deely has most appropriately identified as “the semiotic animal”. This article discusses McLuhan’s understanding of analogy in terms of its figure/ground structure, by using the example of the thermometer from Deely’s Basics of Semiotics. In relating this example to McLuhan’s tetrad, it is shown how McLuhan’s implicitly semiotic analysis can also increase our semiotic understanding of other technological tools, such as Skype videoconferencing.
86. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Jamin Pelkey Analogy Reframed: Markedness, Body Asymmetry, and the Semiotic Animal
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The evolution of arm-leg relationships presents something of a problem for embodied cognitive science. The affordances of habitual bipedalism and upright posture make our two sets of appendages and their interrelationships distinctively human, but these relations are largely neglected in evolutionary accounts of embodied cognition. Using a mixture of methods from historical linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics and linguistic anthropology to analyze data from languages around the world, this paper identifies a robust, dynamic set of part-whole relations that emerge across the human waistline between upper and lower appendage sets cross-culturally. The general pattern—identified as “arm-leg syncretism”—provides a plausible primary source for the uniquely human penchant for creative analogy, or “double-scope conceptual blending”, said to underlie the human language faculty (Fauconnier and Turner 2002, 2008; Deely 2002; Anttila 2003; Bybee 2010). This account not only addresses a conspicuous gap in the literature but also enables us to better understand what it means to be human—including how we came to be unique among other species and how we are still vitally interrelated with other species. Deely (2010) blends both sides of this tension into a single phrase: “the semiotic animal”. The paper further develops this distinction by drawing attention to one of the roles upright posture played in the emergence of semiotic consciousness.
87. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Farouk Y. Seif Semiotic Animal on the Path of Evolutionary Love
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John Deely uses the way of signs not only to establish the contact and dependencies between human thought and action and the surrounding physical universe, but also to account for a social construction of reality as part of human experience beyond mere “thinking thing”. Experiencing evolutionary love is a reciprocal exchange of desire, which is the primary strength of Eros, where eroticism and semiotics intertwine. When Deely states that all animals signify, but only human animals are capable of developing semiotics, he opens a whole way of understanding for us to move beyond the definition of human being as a rational animal into a “semiotic animal” that is also capable of love.
88. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Richard Currie Smith Replacing Descartes’s “Thinking Thing” With Deely’s “Semiotic Animal”: Resolving Our Species Sustainability Dilemma and Establishing the Semiotic Age
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French mathematician and natural philosopher René Descartes in the early seventeenth century developed his “thinking thing” definition of human being. This ontological construct that places the rational intellect of mankind as separate and superior to the natural world became the centerpiece of the Enlightenment and established the Modern Age. Descartes’s definition underlay the scientific and industrial revolution, colonialism, and the cultural imperialism of the West to become globalized along with modernity. With the marvelous technological advances of the worldwide spread of modernity also came devastating climate change and massive biodiversity loss that threatens our species sustainability. The American philosopher John Deely in the early twenty-first century developed his “semiotic animal” definition of human being that places our species within the natural world while being endowed with a unique responsibility toward its preservation and restoration. Deely’s definition is viewed as in consonance with our sustainable Paleolithic animistic ontological orientation centered on accurately interpreting relational being while going beyond it through clarifying the semiotic processes involved in accurate discernment of sustainable activities. It is asserted that replacing Descartes’s thinking thing definition with Deely’s semiotic animal and globalizing it through contemporary communication technology such as the Internet will launch a Semiotic Age and resolve our sustainability crisis.
89. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Stéphanie Walsh Matthews How Fit is the Semiotic Animal?
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How did the Semiotic Animal come to be? Do semiotic analyses of possible evolutionary trajectories allow us to understand how the Semiotic Animal developed a need for meaning in its life? This paper discusses what role built environments have on semiosis and how they might impact on what can be called semiotic fitness over time. Through the lens of evolutionary semiotics, biosemiotics and ecosemiotics, the question of “what is semiotic fitness?” will be dissected in order to understand what impact epigenetic fakeness and bloated signs might have on the Semiotic Animal.
90. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Brooke Williams Deely Teresa of Avila as Paradox of ‘Perfection’ across the Centuries: A Classic Case for Redefining the Human Being as Semiotic Animal
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This essay explores new terrain in our era: Does the redefining of the human being as the “semiotic animal” have the potential to offer a point of departure historically by transcending in terminology—rather than replicating—long prevailing yet paradoxical philosophical dualisms such as rational/non-rational; culture/nature; public/private; active/passive; contemplation/action? As a historian I will put the definition of “semiotic animal” to the test in the laboratory of human experience, as illustrated by Teresa of Avila. Questions arise such as: Does this redefining of the human being as “semiotic animal” for the first time ontologically integrate the rational mode of knowing and the contemplative mode of knowing through love? Does the new definition thereby also intrinsically transcend those philosophical presuppositions deeply embedded in the older definitions of the human being as “rational animal” animal and “thinking thing” that privileged man qua male as more perfect than woman qua woman? Does the “semiotic animal”, furthermore, deepen understanding of the human being as a relational being who is part of nature, thereby bearing ethical responsibility to nature as a whole?
91. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
About the Authors
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ssa presidential address 2013
92. 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
93. 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.
94. 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.
95. 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
96. 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
97. 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
98. 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
99. 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.
100. 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.