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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 33
A Manifesto For “New Humanities”

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1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Richard L. Lanigan Cassirer on Communicology: The Symbolic Forms of Language, Art, Myth, and Religion in Cultural Semiotics
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2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Göran Sonesson Beyond the “Tragedy of Culture”: In-between Epistemology and Communication
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Spelling out the more or less implicit phenomenology found in Peirce’s categories and in the “Basisphänomene” suggested by the late Cassirer, this paper attempts to extend Cassirer’s own suggestion for the grounding of the human, or, as we prefer to say, semiotic, sciences, by means of an elucidation of the components of the basic situation of communication, revised on the basis of the Prague school approach to semiotics. In the first part of the paper, we consider Cassirer’s proposal for a theory of science, in the light of both the first scholarly discussion of the theme, involving Rickert, Windelbrand and Dilthey, and the second round, initiated by Gadamer and Habermas, while drawing final conclusions from the surreptitious results of the advent of Structuralism, in which Cassirer was a somewhat unheeding player. In the second part of the paper, the semiotic sciences are tentatively grounded in the sciences of normalcy, the epitome of which is Husserl’s science of the Lifeworld, presenting the different “Basisphänomene” as being the foundation for three fundamental epistemological operations, derived from the act of communication, which are all necessary to the deployment of the semiotic sciences.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Richard L. Lanigan Ernst Cassirer’s Theory and Application of Communicology: From Husserl via Bühler to Jakobson
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The Human Science of Communicology culminates from several disciplinary developments, largely viewed as singular constitutions and foundational to differential attitudes about the nature and function of philosophy and science in apposition (triadic relation) to human embodiment. In more familiar terms, the idea of Culture stands in contrast to the idea of Science, because there is a measured distinction between what human beings express and what they perceive. In Modernity, we know this apposition (Human–Culture–Science) as the emergence of (1) the distinct cultural disciplines (expression of human embodiment) over against the (2) the distinct scientific disciplines (perception of physical nature). Ernst Cassirer explores this problematic in The Logic of the Cultural Sciences (1942) where he distinguishes Culture as the perception-of-expression and Science as the perception-of-objects. Cassirer’s thematic explication is to be found in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923–1996) where his semiotic phenomenology of human communication is articulated in detail such that Science is bracketed by Culture. In Cassirer’s terms of symbolic forms, we can distinguish the semiotic distinction among (1) the Perception of Expression (Culture) where (a) Myth (Langage) and (b) Knowledge (Parole) contrast with (2) the Perception of Objects (Science) in the form of (c) Speech (Langue) and (d) Art (Discours). Symbols are constitutive of social semiotics (sensuous expression) and the intersubjective phenomenology of human embodiment (intuitive expression) in the tradition of Immanuel Kant and Edmund Husserl.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Eric M. Kramer Cassirer as Revolutionary: Semiotics as Embodied Worldview: Appreciating the Other in Ourselves
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This article examines the meaning of interactive comportment as identified by Richard Lanigan and the role fundamental analysis of this facticity (communicology) can play in improving social life. The role of communicology as exposed by this non-naïve sense of responsibility is examined. The contribution of Ernst Cassirer’s work on symbology generally, and the primitive more specifically, is explored as a case that supports Lanigan’s assertion that fundamental examination of comportment can expand our understanding of ourselves and others, facilitate tolerance, foster creativity, and enrich our lives. Rigorous examination and appreciation of comportment, including the relationship between identity and difference, has implications for, and reverberates throughout, the lifeworld. A non-naïve understanding that social studies take place within a social environment and have consequences for that environment prompts us to self-consciously interrogate the implications of such work for life. Cassirer’s work demonstrates the potential for communicology to facilitate change.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Rolf-Dieter Hepp Epistemological and Symbolic Aspects of Sociological Thinking
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Considering different aspects of society such as identity, entity, and totality seems to be an integral object of social science research which offers specific configurations of and for symbols and signs. They are tools for decoding and deciphering the social quadratic structure of Self—Other, combined with, Similarity—Difference. If these semiotic comparisons are based on communicated Language, particularly when examined from the point of view of a symbolic pervasion and permeation of power, then we can see that normal thought patterns (hexis) loose their natural coherence in practice (habitus). As Jaques Lacan points out by referring to the unconscious, first of all Language (langue) has to assure itself of its object (sign/parole) in order to be able to develop its analytic pattern (symbol/discours). In this communicative context taking the term field as an example, Bourdieu shows how socially accepted terms are applied in an uncontrolled way (illusio) without being examined thoroughly (as contingent and precarious indexical referents), thus gaining system access (rhetoric as practical logic) to the production of social knowledge (ideology) in a given culture.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Maureen Connolly Paulo Freire and Ernst Cassirer: Mythic and Superstitious Consciousness in Contemporary Academic Culture
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The extent to which superstitious consciousness is prevalent in students, professors and administrators in university culture is no less alarming than the extent to which Cassirer (1946) proposed mythic consciousness is prevalent (and even necessary) within a totalitarian state. These are the connections I wish to explore: superstitious and mythic consciousness, and, pedagogic and political overlaps in the context of higher education and, in particular, in the processes of teaching, learning, scholarship, and curriculum development. Through examples drawn from my earlier and more recent years in higher education contexts, I examine, interrogate, and puzzle over the tensions, paradoxes, risks, and choices which characterize working from a Freirian orientation. In this analysis, I also engage the resonances between Paulo Freire and Ernst Cassirer. I refer to the works in Ira Shor’s 1987 collection devoted to applications of Paulo Freire’s theorizing and praxis and comment on their on­going relevance. Last, I employ post-colonial and semiotic phenomenological modes of analyses and explication in my attempt to work through issues of power, pedagogy, and praxis in the increasingly urgent and intolerant politics of contemporary academic culture at the universities.
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Jacqueline M. Martinez Cassirer’s “Violent Inner Tensions of Culture”: A Cultural Phenomenology of Ethics, Freedom and the Mythology of Peace
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Ernst Cassirer’s assertion that the most “violent inner tensions” are at work in the unfolding of culture, is the central problematic taken up in the present work. A “mythology of peace” is identified as central in maintaining a collective blindness to these violent inner tensions at the level of culture. Any notion of cultural ethics must emerge from an examination of culture as it is alive and concrete. Such an examination requires a cultural phenomenology. Cultural ethics must be considered in its relationship to conditions of human freedom. Cassirer’s concern with symbolic forms provides an entrée into the problematic of the relationship between culture, ethics and freedom. From within this problematic, Cassirer develops the terms, conditions, and practices of a cultural science that investigates the function of symbolic forms as they at work within the everyday world of people communicating. The work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty offers important extensions of Cassirer’s cultural science, particularly with regard to the relationship between individual perception or experience and the cultural milieu in which those perceptions and experiences are situated. A specific case of an ex-police officer turned mass-murderer within the U.S. American context is analyzed as a moment of rupture—an eruption of these violent inner tensions. This phenomenology of culture provides an insight into how mythologies of the “totalitarian race” and of “the hero” exacerbate these violent inner tensions of culture to the point of concrete expression. It also reveals the danger of overly rigid mythologies that can emerge from “symbolic forms,” and which deeply impede the “task of freedom” in a human world.
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Thomas D. Craig Shelter on the Mountain of God: Ernst Cassirer and the Religious Institution of Empire
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Ernst Cassirer proposes that a significant shift in thinking occurs in the early decades of the twentieth century. In sum, the makers of modern political myth had exploited the allure of “mythical world feeling” (1957 [1929]: 150) for their own pragmatic purposes. While there is no direct connection between the two, the American Protestant Fundamentalist missionary organization, L’Abri Fellowship International, began in Switzerland shortly after Cassirer’s Myth of the State (1946) was published in the early post-WWII era. Cassirer’s analysis in that publication, as well as his earlier writings on the symbolic forms of expression, provide an insightful theoretical means for understanding how a new strategic institution of religious empire could appropriate an immediate sense of reality within a collectivist claim to truth. Borrowing from both the theoretical corpus of Cassirer on (1) the symbolic forms of bodily expression (Ausdrucksfunktion), (2) the discursive function of strategic organizational action (Darstellungsfunktion), and (3) the ongoing communicological writings of Richard Lanigan, I provide a semiotic and phenomenological analysis of the disclosure of the forms of expression of L’Abri within the available historical and cultural contents, norms, and inscriptions which helped to build a worldwide religious institution that has endured for over sixty years.
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
Yun Xia Cassirer’s Symbolic Forms in Application: New Symbolization of New Thought in the Language of Online Communication
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Communication online via the Internet includes different genres, such as email, blogs, chat groups, virtual worlds, and the World Wide Web. Across different genres, Internet communication is primarily undertaken in the form of written language in visual modalities with oral features. The technical properties of Internet communication production and transmission influence how people perceive and use language orthography to construct meanings from language as a new way of thinking and practicing self-expression. My analysis uses Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms and Louis Hjelmslev’s glossomatics as a theoretical base to analyze and discuss how Internet communication serves to offer a new symbolic form of a new thought process as a type of Walter Ong’s second-order orality in human communication.
10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 3/4
About the Authors
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11. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Dario Martinelli Introduction—A Manifesto For “New Humanities”
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12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Marija Liudvika Drazdauskiene Questionable Foundations and Quality in the Humanities
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Information, knowledge and understanding, history/tradition and novelty, fashion and science, show business and intellectual product are the contexts to review in order to answer the question why humanities have been losing credibility and have come under the hammer. The present article, informed by philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Mary Midgley, authors like Charles K. Ogden and Ivor A. Richards, semioticians like Algirdas Greimas and Roland Barthes and classical English literature, argue that the problem originates between the continuity of thought and indoctrination, between the stance of Rectors of universities and henchmen in the politics of market economy, and it is best exemplified by the caricature of humanities in some universities resulting from the implementation of the courses of technical skills. Knowing that humanities have been prized for intellectual attainment (Lincoln Barnett, Paul Goodman), their precarious state seems to depend on unbalanced philosophical, ethical, educational and economic principles. With economy being the factor which is hard to dispute, political and ethical principles tend to invite a revision because of a traceable tendency to promote the production of the manageable rather than the enlightened.
13. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Ricardo Nogueira De Castro Monteiro Numanities and Their Role in the Twenty-First Century: Three Questions Towards a New Era
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Despite the unquestionable importance of technological progress in twenty-first-century society, the decision by many political leaders worldwide to treat natural sciences as an almost exclusive priority betrays a terrible misconception of the complexity of the contemporary world. As the Renaissance cannot be reduced to Copernicus’s or Galileo’s brilliant contributions, or Enlightenment to the works of such giants as Newton and Cavendish, contemporary society will hardly be remembered as just a series of amazing software and gadget updates. There are three categories of questions today that only humanities are prone to answer. The first one, exploring the relations between subject and object mediated by the meaning of “property”, ultimately concerns the discussion between legality and legitimacy. Not long ago, teenagers were still being sued by the giants of the Entertainment Industry for downloading songs, and the practice of mash-ups or remixing even now arouses huge polemics. The second one, focused on the self-representations of the subject, concerns the changing meanings (and representations) of identity and cultural borders in a globalizing world. Finally, the inter-subjective interactions are the centre of the political tensions between democracy and demagogy, two opposed categories that have often been presented as hardly distinguishable from each other.
14. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Seema Khanwalkar Humanities in the Digital World / Or Digital in the Humanities?
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“Humanities in the digital age”, more than a topic, is today a genre in itself: an academic anxiety, a compromise, an opportunity for a new epoch, or the demise of a traditional ability to introspect. Browsing the literature on debates, research, experiments and future is overwhelming, and every other day we witness the closing down of a traditional humanities subject, or we see funding being diverted to the technological experiments in humanities. It becomes imperative to engage with this revolution, also called ‘digital humanities’. What to do in the wake of this new epoch? Do we resist, not ‘serving’ the system, or do we participate in creating a new digital humanities experience? The answer is difficult, particularly in the context of future generations who, as ‘digital natives’, cannot look back. There is merit to the anxieties with regard to the neo-capitalist enterprises that threaten to obliterate the fundamental tenets of the humanities. At a crossroads today are the academic departments, but at ease with new technologies are the younger generations. This article is one step towards discovering views, stating pros and cons, and looking into the kaleidoscopic spread of the humanities in the digital world. Or the digital in the humanities world … only future will tell.
15. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Dario Martinelli, Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli Musical Performance As an Intermedial Affair (A Case of a Pianist)
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The professional profile of a performer does not only consist of mere music playing, but calls into question a number of variables of private and public, musical and extra-musical articulation. Performers have their own personality and inclinations; they are exposed to different forms of education and influences; they develop certain technical and stylistic abilities; they find certain repertoires more suitable than others; they confront themselves with composers and their requests/indications; they have to take into account social demands to given repertoires; they also, intentionally or not, develop a public persona; finally, and particularly nowadays, they create a number of media interfaces that allow the public to access all the previously-listed features. The present article focuses on new media communication, particularly “official websites”, as one of such media interfaces (and one of the most important ones, in present-day society): the various semiotic strategies of visual, linguistic and audiovisual representation of this medium will be applied to the case of the Lithuanian pianist Andrius Žlabys.
16. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Laura García-Portela Our Responsibility to Future Generations in the Context of Ecological Crisis: Perspectives and Future Challenges
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The present article aims to present how the different philosophical perspectives have tackled the problem of the foundations of our responsibility to future generations in the context of ecological crisis. The main theories addressed here will be Hans Jonas metaphysical foundation, utilitarianism, communitarianism, the rights theory and contractarian perspectives derived from John Rawls’s theory. By assessing these perspectives, I assert that, against jonasianianism and related perspectives, our responsibilities to future generations must be thought of in terms of “political, not metaphysical”. The foundation of these responsibilities must be based, not on God, nor compassion, nor benevolence, nor identity sentiments, but on a conception of ourselves as rational and reasonable persons. From my point of view, we must find our responsibilities to future generations in our respect for their necessities and interests as well as in the maintenance of their available opportunities. This point of view allows us to point out some of our future challenges in the intergenerational justice scope.
17. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
Massimo Leone Help! Is There a Semiotician on the Plane?
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“Please, we urgently need a semiotician!” is certainly not the most common request heard in a situation of emergency, yet a time may come when we realize that there are cases that a physician (or another scientist) cannot effectively deal with.Two passengers fight over the same space on a plane, to the point that the pilot is obliged to land and have the two contenders get off at the closest airport. Each of the humanities has a specific way to frame and seek to find a less disrupting solution to the problem. The present article argues that the specific contribution semiotics can and must give to present-day societies is that of providing discursive evidence that problems that fall in the domain of language cannot be solved by technology, no matter how smart it might be, but rather can be solved only via communication as such: talking, compromising, finding agreements.
about the authors
18. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 33 > Issue: 1/2
About the Authors
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