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1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
John N. Deely (26 April 1942–2017 January 7)
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2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
Richard Currie Smith Introduction by the Guest Editor
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3. 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.
4. 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)
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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?
12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/4
About the Authors
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