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141. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Jakob von Uexküll, Thure von Uexküll The Eternal Question: Biological variations on a Platonic dialogue
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The reinterpretation of Nature by biology, which will prevail in spite of all obstacles, has brought our thinking closer to antiquity, giving us the chance to reinvigorate our perused terminology with the help of the resources to be found in the thoughts of the greatest minds of mankind. The way to Plato thus being cleared, I perceived the idea to seek enlightenment on pressing biological questions from the great Sage. As means to this end, I chose to make Socrates continue one of his dialogues, with the adjustment of giving him the knowledge of our contemporary biological problems. Thus some kind of interaction between the Ancients and ourselves is created, to our considerable benefit.
142. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Mathias Gutmann Uexküll and contemporary biology: Some methodological reconsiderations
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Philosophical anthropology and philosophical biology were both very powerful and influential movements in the German academic discussion of the early 20th century. Starting with a similar conceptual background (particularly with reference to Hans Driesch’s bio-Aristotelism) they aimed at a synthetic philosophy of nature, which was supposed to include human nature into the realm of a monist description of nature itself. Within this field of biophilosophical reasoning, Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of organism and his theoretical biology hold a central place. In this paper, Uexküll’s theoretical biology is reconsidered as a resumption and reformulation of a theory of knowledge from a “Kantian” provenience. Its specific structure as a generalized theory of knowledge is reconstructed and the pitfalls of a biological interpretation of the condition of the possibility of knowledge are outlined. The theory of organism is reconstructed as a centrepiece of Uexküll’sapproach. The last section of this paper presents a proposal of engineering morphology which allows the full application of Uexküll’s insights into the relativity of organismic constitution. The usefulness of functional modeling for evolutionary reconstructions on the basis of a theory of organism of uexküllian type and its relevance for biological research is evaluated.
143. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Florian Mildenberger Race and breathing therapy: The career of Lothar Gottlieb Tirala (1886–1974)
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The historiography of life, work and visions of Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) has grew up during the last years. But up to now lifes of his important followers in science are still unknown. This article ist devoted to life and work of Lothar Gottlieb Tirala (1886–1974), who studied psychology and medicine in Vienna and started cooperation with Uexküll in 1914. They stayed in contact during the following decades, although Tirala began a career in race hygiene and neo-darwinistic scientific thought. He organised the contact between Uexküll and Houston Stewart Chamberlain and got support from the Wagner-family in 1933 to become professor for race biology in Munich. After his booting out in 1936 because of massive faults in teaching Tirala changed his scientific interests and began to stretch Uexkülls “Reflexlehre” into healing of blood pressure diseases in men. He became a favourite researcher in German natural cure community after 1945. Even today his studies are integrated in efforts to fight hypertonia.
144. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull Semiosphere and a dual ecology: Paradoxes of communication
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This article compares the methodologies of two types of sciences (according to J. Locke) — semiotics, and physics — and attempts thereby to characterise the semiotic and non-semiotic approaches to the description of ecosystems. The principal difference between the physical and semiotic sciences is that there exists just a single physical reality that is studied by physics via repetitiveness, whereas there are many semiotic realities that are studied as unique individuals. Seventeen complementary definitions of the semiosphere are listed, among them, semiosphere defined as the space of qualitative (incommensurable) diversity. It is stated that, paradoxically, diversity, being a creation of communication, can also be destroyed due to excessive communication.
145. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Leonid Tchertov Perceptographic code in visual culture
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Visual culture can be considered from semiotic point of view as a system of visual codes. Several of them have natural routs. So the perceptual code is formed already on biological level mediating translation of sensory data into perceptual images of the spatial world. The means of natural perceptual code are transformed in culture, where they are involved in communication by depictions. The depiction on the flat performs the function of a “perceptogram”, which, on one hand, is an external record of an internal perceptual image or an idea, and, on the other hand, serves as a program for a spectator’s visual perception. The means of this “perceptography” form an artificial code, which is, on the contrary to the perceptual code, communicative, deliberately used and transformed in various ways at different periods of time in diverse kinds of practical and artistic activity. Not all perceptograms become pieces of art, but all history of pictorial arts can be considered as a process of development and mastering with the different versions of this perceptographic code. The changes of this code in visual culture are connected with the intrinsic development of “vision forms” as well with invention of external means of communication.
146. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Juri Lotman, Wilma Clark On the semiosphere
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This article, first published in Russian in 1984 in Sign Systems Studies, introduces the concept of semiosphere and describes its principal attributes. Semiosphere is the semiotic space, outside of which semiosis cannot exist. The ensemble of semiotic formations functionally precedes the singular isolated language and becomes a condition for the existence of the latter. Without the semiosphere, language not only does not function, it does not exist. The division between the core and the periphery is a law of the internal organisation of the semiosphere. There exists boundary between the semiosphere and the non- or extra-semiotic space that surrounds it. The semiotic border is represented by the sum of bilingual translatable “filters”, passing through which the text is translated into another language (or languages), situated outside the given semiosphere. The levels of the semiosphere comprise an inter-connected group of semiospheres, each of them being simultaneously both participant in the dialogue (as part of the semiosphere) and the space of dialogue (the semiosphere as a whole).
147. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Stephen Jarosek The semiotics of sexuality: The choice becomes the association of habits becomes the desire becomes the need
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Pragmatism is the idea that we attribute meaning to things that matter to us. Ultimately, the things that matter are intercepted by our bodies — our eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet, skin — right down to our sex differences. Our bodies are the tools with which we interface with the world — the cultural world. Sex differences provide major insights into how the body impacts on experience and thus, personality and ultimately culture’s gender roles. In my earlier paper, I discuss what Peirce identified as fundamental aspects of cognition — habits and associative learning — and I place them in the context of Heidegger’s Dasein. In this current paper, I develop on these ideas in order to apply them to understand gender roles. From the inextricable connection between habits, associative learning andDasein, we can infer the following: (1) Gender roles are habits; (2) Gender roles are chosen; (3) Men and women “like” the roles to which they have beenassigned (this is a fundamental expression of Dasein). That is to say — the choice becomes the association of habits becomes the desire becomes the need. Hence arise the needs by which gender roles are identified.
148. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Richard L. Lanigan The semiotic phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault
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Postmodern methodology in the human sciences and philosophy reverses the Aristotelian laws of thought such that (1) non-contradiction, (2) excluded middle, (3) contradiction, and (4) identity become the ground for analysis. The illustration of the postmodern logic is Peirce’s (1) interpretant, (2) symbol, (3) index, and (4) icon. The thesis is illustrated using the work of Merleau-Ponty and Foucault and the le même et l’autre discourse sign where the ratio [Self:Same :: Other:Different] explicates the communicology of Roman Jakobson in the conjunctions and disjunctions, appositions and oppositions of discours, parole, langue, and langage.
149. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Peeter Torop Semiosphere and/as the research object of semiotics of culture
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Since 1984 when J. Lotman’s article “On semiosphere” was published, this concept has been moving from one terminological field to another. In the disciplinary terminological field of the Tartu–Moscow School semiotics of culture, ‘semiosphere’ is connected with terms ‘language — secondary modelling system — text — culture’. From interdisciplinary terminological fields, the associations either with biosphere and noosphere, or with logosphere, are more important. As a metadisciplinary concept, semiosphere belongs to the methodology of culture studies and is associated with the concepts of holism and the part and the whole. In this context, semiosphere marks the complementarity of disciplines studying culture, the movement towards the creation of general culture studies and “understanding methodology”. On the background of the contemporary trends of science it has to be remembered that semiosphere is simultaneously an object- and a metaconcept. The dynamism of culture as a research object forces science to search for new description languages but the new description languages in turn influence the cultural dynamics as they offer new possibilities for self-description. Often, however, from a historical perspective, a new description language is nothing but a methodological translation. Thus also the term semiosphere joins together several concepts that are related to semiotics of culture and that have gained new relevance on the background of the culture’s developmental dynamics. The concept of semiosphere brings semiotics of culture again into contact with its history, as it also brings applicational cultural analysis into contact with the history of culture and with the newest phenomena in culture. These contacts determine the place of the semiotics of culture among the sciences studying culture.
150. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Jorge Conesa Sevilla The realm of continued emergence: The semiotics of George Herbert Mead and its implications to biosemiotics, semiotic matrix theory, and ecological ethics
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This examination of the often-inaccessible work and semiotics of George Herbert Mead focuses first on his pivotal ideas of Sociality, Consciousness, and Communication. Mead’s insight of sociality as forced relatedness, or forced semiosis, appearing early in evolution, or appearing in simple systems, guarantees him a foundational place among biosemioticians. These ideas are Mead’s exemplar description of multiple referentiality afforded to social organisms (connected to his idea of the generalized other), thus enabling passing from one umwelt to another, with relative ease. Although Mead’s comprehensive semiosis is basically sound, and in concordance with modern and contemporary semiotics (and biosemiotics), it nevertheless lacks a satisfactory explanation of how conscious organisms achieve passing into new frames of reference. Semiotic Matrix Theory (SMT), its pansemiosis, describes falsifiable existential and cognitive heuristics of recognizing Energy requirements, Safety concerns and Possibility or Opportunity as “passing” functions. Finally, another type of emergence, ecoethics, isan embedded constant in biosemiosis. Not all semiosis is good semiosis, not all text is good text. Because our species is moving away from ancient biosemiosisand interrelatedness, this historicity, even ductile enough to invent synthetic semiosis or capricious umwelten, is facing the ecological reality and consequences of an overly anthropocentric text.
151. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Linnar Priimägi The problem of the autocatalytic origin of culture in Juri Lotman’s cultural philosophy
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The origin of culture remains in the sphere of hypotheses. Although the hypotheses derive from two presumptions: first, how the structure of culture is envisaged, and secondly, how culture is thought to function. Juri Lotman dealt with both aspects of culture, initially the structural and typological and later the dynamic aspects. Thereby, he arrived at the culturalphilosophical hypothesis of the autocatalytic origin of culture. A catalyst is a component of a chemical reaction which itself doesn’t transform during the reaction, but whose presence is needed to guarantee the reaction (or to stimulate it). Thus, autocatalysis is a paradoxical situation in which the genesis of something presumes the pre-existence of the final product. The paradox of the autocatalysis of culture lies in the fact that culture cannot emerge from anything other than from culture itself, from its own germination. In 1988, speaking about the autocatalysis of culture, Lotman refered tothe cultural historicist Nikolai I. Konrad (1891–1970), who undoubtedly borrowed this idea from Jacob Christopher Burckhardt (1818–1897). This undiscovered connection reminds us of the fact, that a model for autocatalysis (or an autopoiesis) was basic to Naturphilosophie of the 19th century. In the 20th century, this was represented by Vladimir I. Vernadsky (1863–1945), from whom Lotman in 1982 received the impetus to formulate the concept of semiosphere as well as of the autocatalysis of culture. The autocatalysis model of culture is culturally diachronical, the semiosphere is, however, a synchronical one. In both cases, the natural philosophical cytology of the 19th century was Lotman’s semiotical meta-language.
152. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1
Marcel Danesi The Fibonacci sequence and the nature of mathematical discovery: A semiotic perspective
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This study looks at the relation between mathematical discovery and semiosis, focusing on the famous Fibonacci sequence. The serendipitous discovery of this sequence as the answer to a puzzle designed by Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci to illustrate the efficiency of the decimal number system is one of those episodes in human history which show how serendipity, semiosis, and discovery are intertwined. As such, the sequence has significant implications for the study of creative semiosis, since it suggests that symbols are hardly arbitrary products of human reason, but rather unconscious probes of reality.
153. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Luule Epner Redefining national identity by playing with classics
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National identities are to a great extent based on common mythical stories (re)produced by literature and arts; in the long run, the core texts of literature themselves start to function as cultural myths. Performing classical works theatre relates them to the changing social context and thus actualises their meaning. Theatrical representations of national characters and mythical stories participate in reinforcing or redefining national identity. In independent Estonia of the 1990s–2000s the need for reconsidering national values and myths that served to consolidate society in the Soviet period, has become evident. The article focuses on theatrical productions in the turn of the century, which are based on active rewriting of well-known Estonian classics (August Kitzberg, Oskar Luts, and the national epic Kalevipoeg). The article tries to answer two questions: how ingredients of national identity (for instance, the relation to the Other) are displayed and (de)constructed by adapting or rewriting of above-mentioned classics; how textual strategies aimed at semantic transformations are motivated and shaped by the principle of self-reflexive theatrical play.
154. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Alexander V. Kozin Crossing over with the Angel
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This essay is an analytical extension of Roland Barthes’ structural analysis of an excerpt from the Old Testament (Genesis 32: 22–32), known as “The Struggle with the Angel”. It thus continues the search for “the third meaning” of this enigmatic passage. In this essay, “The Struggle with the Angel” is undertaken in the phenomenological (xenological) register which situates it in the liminal sphere at the crossing of disclosure and concealment. Subsequent semiotic analyses of three visual renditions of Genesis 32: 22–32, Rembrandt’s “Jacob’s Struggle with the Angel”, Sir Jacob Epstein’s “Jacob and the Angel”, and Marc Chagall’s “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel”, show the “third meaning” of the passage to be predicated on the foundational relation between naming and facing, pointing to the understanding of “The Struggle” as the face-to-face relationship of love and responsibility grounded in ethics.
155. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Dinda L. Gorlée Hints and guesses: Legal modes of semio-logical reasoning
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Legal semiotics is an internationally proliferated subfield of general semiotics. The three-step principles of Peirce’s semiotic logic are the three leading categories: firstness, secondness and thirdness, grounded on the reverse principles of logic: deduction, induction and — Peirce’s discovery — abduction. Neither induction nor abduction can provide a weaker truth claim than deduction. Abduction occurs in intuitive conclusions regarding the possibility of backward reasoning, contrary to the system of law. Civil-law cultures possess an abstract deductive orientation, governed by the rigidity of previous written law, whereas the actual fragility of a common-law system with cases and precedents inclines to induction, orienting its habituality (habits) in moral time and space. Customary law gives credit to abductive values: relevant sentiments, beliefs and propositions are upgraded to valid reasoning. The decision-making by U.S. case law and English common-law is characterized as decision law with abductive undertones.
156. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Daniele Monticelli From globality to partiality: Semiotic practices of resistance to the discourse of war
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This paper examines the discourse of war from a semiotic point of view and suggests some ideas for the development of practices of resistance to it. The discourse of war can be considered symptomatic in respect to underlying discourses of totality such as globalisation. By aiming at explanatory simplification, this kind of discourse takes the paradoxical form of an exhaustive paradigm which always engenders a residuum to be eliminated. Semiotics can develop practices of resistance to the discourse of war by operating on the syntagmatic chains generated by its mediatic agencies. These practices are based on the postmodernist critique of totalising discourses. A process in which details are disconnected from the mediatic chains where they vanish might trigger the opening of a space of community that makes the residuum of war discourse presentable through metaphorical substitutions. Semiotic practices of resistance to the discourse of war presuppose a shift in theory from the paradigm of globality to that of partiality. Partiality must be understood both from a political and an epistemological point of view and it could therefore represent an important element in the development of a semioethics.
157. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Janelle Reinelt National signs: Estonian identity in performance
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Since Estonia is in the midst of a national redefinition and examination of past traditions and future aspirations, it makes an excellent case study for the potentiality of theatre as an arbiter of national identity. The changing value of the institution itself is part of the equation (will Estonians continue to appreciate and attend the theatre in coming years?). In addition, the historical role of Estonian theatre as a repository for national narratives, especially literary ones, makes it a significant site for struggles around print and technology, and between embodied performances and archival performatives.This essay introduces a series of articles that address how Estonia and its theatre might be regarded and understood in light of its history, memories, present experiences, and future possibilities. The idea of pretence that lies at the heart of theatricality itself provides an ideal means for interrogating national identity in a time of great instability and flux. The examples of productions discussed in these three essays share more than a deliberate utilization of the rubrics of theatricality. It seems no coincidence that the reworking of national classics, Estonian national myths, and ethnic folk songs and ceremonies takes place concurrently with the representation of new technologies, commodity capitalism, and diasporic collisions. Embodying precisely the predicament of culture in a country reassessing its past and confronting its future, the theatre is an important institution for national resignification.
158. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Anneli Saro Von Krahl Theatre revisiting Estonian cultural heritage
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In the 1990s Estonia underwent a process of radical socio-political changes: a periphery of the Soviet conglomerate became a country with an independent political and economic life. The new situation also brought about a revision of cultural identity, which in the Soviet Union had been grounded primarily on the dichotomy between national and Soviet culture. Since these oppositions were rendered unimportant with the changed politico-economic conditions, a time of ideological vacuum followed. Estonia as an independent state and a cultural island between the East and the West turned its face toward Europe, questioning for its new or true identity in the postmodernising and globalizing society. In this article three productions of Estonian theatre as examples of identity construction will be analysed, investigating the rewriting of cultural heritage, intercultural relationships and implicit ideologies.
159. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Ester Võsu, Alo Joosepson Staging national identities in contemporary Estonian theatre and film
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This paper focuses on the ways in which national identities are staged in recent film and theatre productions in Estonia. We want to complement the prevalent approaches to nationality (Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983; Bhabha 1990), where the role of theatre and film as modellers of national identity are undervalued. National identity is a complex term that presupposes some clarification, which we gave by describing its dynamics today; its relation to ethnic identity, a thread between the lived and declared national identities, and the relevance of culture-based national identity. Herein we consider the concept of staging to have two implications: (1) as an aesthetic term it incorporates an artistic process, comprising several devices and levels; (2) as a concept in cultural theory it describes cultural processes in which something is set on stage for public reflection. Accordingly, in our analysis we considered national identities in theatre and film stagings in both senses. The results of our analyses demonstrated that our hypothesis about emerging new national identities in Estonia was valid, though deconstructed and hybrid national identities are not exactly and absolutely new types of identities but rather strategies of creating space for new identities to develop. A deconstructed national identity refers to the state of high self-reflexivity in which the existing elements of national identity are re-examined, recontextualised and re-evaluated. Further, a hybrid national identity demonstrates the diversity and coexistence of the components of national identity. Both strategies of staging are characteristic of the transformation of national identities, confirming that a single homogenous staging of national identity seems to be replaced by bringing multiple new self-models on stage.
160. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 33 > Issue: 2
Leonid Tchertov Spatial semiosis and time
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Spatial semiosis differs from temporal one by its structural and functional peculiarities. Meaningful relations between units of spatial texts are not ordered along of temporal axe and do not need time in their form of expression. However time remains an important factor for both: being of the spatial semiosis in the external time and being of time in the spatial texts as object of representation. In the contrast to temporal communication, where acts receiving of texts must be synchronized with the acts of their (re)production, spatial semiosis is built as a diachronic process, dividing in time from two separate acts: creating and perceiving. This structural peculiarity allows to connect people from different temporal periods and gives to spatial semiosis the function of irreplaceable means for cultural memory. Excluding time from the semiotic form of their plane of expression, spatial texts have some rules of presentation in time and semiotic means for representation of temporal order and duration in their plane of contents. There are different means of representation of time in the spatial forms: the projection of temporal structures on the spatial ones, concentration of different moments in one state, etc.