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thematic issue articles
61. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Mark Lemon Packing in Meaning: Applying Jakobson’s Model of Communication to Packaging Design
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From the level of the sign to culture, the practice of semiotic analysis concerns the construction and description of models. Within commercial semiotics, a few of these models (notably Greimas’s semiotic square and Raymond Williams’s concept of residual, dominant, and emergent), have proven particularly useful due to their ability to summarise cultural phenomena in a form readily digested and applied by marketing professionals to their brands. Packaging design is a frequent subject of commercial semiotic enquiry and draws on a wide array of semiotic phenomena ranging from visuals, to textures, and the lived experience of interacting with the package. How can we approach a comprehensive understanding of the potential of packaging design to communicate meaning? In what ways can we say that a package can ‘mean’, and how as semioticians can we help analyze and create novel packaging solutions that further brand meaning? Roman Jakobson’s general model of linguistic communication proposes a diverse array of cross cultural communicative functions for language, but is not currently a key model in the commercial semiotician’s toolkit. This paper proposes that this linguistic model has the potential to be translated into the multisensory realm of general semiotics and applied to packaging design. It will particularly consider how Jakobson’s six communicative functions (emotive, referential, poetic, conative, metalingual, and phatic) are relevant to the numerous non-linguistic sign systems (colour, texture, shape, typography, imagery, material etc.) employed in packaging. In so doing, this paper proposes a system for understanding the meaning potential of packaging design as not only an aesthetic vehicle but also a strategic tool for the cross-cultural development and communication of brand identity.
general research article
62. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Barry Stampfl Hypothetic Inference as “Peculiar Musical Emotion”: Interpreting Hüsker Dü
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An invitation to consider my own continuing engagement with alternative rock music has caused me to ponder the role of personal history in the development of individual musical preferences. I will rely on Peirce’s concept of hypothetic inference (aka abduction) as an optic for re-seeing some standard distinctions in the discussion of the aesthetic responses of musical listeners. A certain passage from Peirce that interrogates the nature of “peculiar musical emotion” makes it possible to question assumptions regarding the mechanisms that enable music to express and, especially, to arouse emotions in an essay by music theorists Jennefer Robinson and Robert S. Hatten. I will suggest that Robinson and Hatten’s description of episodic memory as a source of musical emotions that is not aesthetically warranted requires reconsideration. By adapting Norman N. Holland’s psychoanalytic analysis of individuals’ responses to literary texts to the aesthetic responses of musical listeners, we can see that between episodic memories and aesthetic responses there is an intervening term, “identity theme”, that cannot be disregarded. Holland’s approach discloses a seamless connection between episodic memories and certain kinds of emotional responses to music that Robinson and Hatten do consider to be aesthetically warranted, those that are comprehended under the persona theory of musical emotions. In the final section of my essay, I will focus on my own obsession with the alternative rock band Hüsker Dü in order to show the unavoidability of episodic memory for the understanding of music’s emotional impact.
book reviews
63. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Frank Nuessel The Greimas Centennial in Review
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64. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Gary Shank Visualizing Semiotics and Semioticizing Vision: The Role of Semiotic Theory in Graphic Design Theory
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65. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
About the Authors
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66. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Jamin Pelkey Introduction: John Deely Memorial Issue
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67. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Brooke Williams Deely John Deely and His Vocation as a Philosopher: From New Mexico to Mexico to the Universe
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research papers
68. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Paul Cobley Human Understanding: The Key Triad
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John Deely’s contributions to the philosophy of signs have transformed semiotics. Key to this development has been Deely’s concern not just with human-produced texts but, instead, with human understanding amidst the context of semiosis in general, including realms beyond that of the human. Underpinning this concern, in turn, is his triad of sign, object and thing: A definite re-orientation of the theory of the sign. In this article it will be suggested that the triad, exemplifying suprasubjectivity and the primacy of relation, not only establishes the ground for rethinking common understandings of subjectivity, intersubjectivity and objectivity, it also provides a basis for re-conceptualizing other areas of social thought: In particular, how humans exist within their environment, both in terms of “affordances”—which generally facilitate human action—and “ideology”—which generally constrain it to the exigencies of determined circumstances. Deely’s realism, in its fundament of the sign/object/thing triad, demonstrates how mind-independent being is omnipresent, even when occluded in the objective order; it uncovers the “truth” of ideology and the Gegengefuge or ‘counter-structure’ of affordances.
69. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Donna E. West Deely’s Extension of Peirce’s Thirdness: Pregenerativity
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According to Deely, Peirce’s renovation of Saussure’s semiology to create his division of signs was far-reaching; it incorporates their use within non-living systems. Deely’s rationale is founded upon consideration of Peirce’s concept of individual/the continuum, and reality/existence. Deely’s argument proceeds as follows: it is not uniqueness or unique conscious reflection which qualifies sign use, but the habits to which animate and inanimate systems become subject. In posing his argument, Deely draws upon Krampen’s claim that signs permeate the plant world, in the Thirdness of plant reactions to experiences. This clearly illustrates the significant impact of Secondness in semiosis. Deely’s further (but brief) treatment of how potential eventualities qualify as real reveals Deely’s final interpretation of Peirce’s sign legacy. It brings to light Peirce’s insistence that possibility (that which is yet to transpire) may influence semiosis more substantially than mere actuality. In fact, potential habit-change represents Peirce’s most mature semiotic—what obviates the existence and use of signs in living and nonliving systems alike is not the degree of awareness/consciousness of what inhabits signs, but changes in reactivity (a form of pregenerative thirdness).
70. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Göran Sonesson Meaning Redefined: Reflections on the Scholastic Heritage Conveyed by John Deely to Contemporary Semiotics
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From the point of view of semiotics, the essential contribution of John Deely consists in having made us all aware of the richness of the Scholastic heritage, and to have explained it to us latter-day semioticians. Even for those, who, like the present author, think that semiotics was alive and well between the dawn of the Latin Age, and the rediscovery of Scholastic realism by Peirce, the notions coined by the Scholastic philosophers are intriguing. To make sense of scholastic notions such as ens reale and ens rationis is not a straightforward matter, but it is worthwhile trying to do so, in particular by adapting these notions to ideas more familiar in the present age. Starting out from the notions of Scholastic Realism, we try in the following to make sense of the different meanings of meaning, only one of which is the sign. It will be suggested that there are counterparts to ens rationis, not only in the thinking of some contemporary philosophers, but also, in a more convoluted way, in the discussion within cognitive science about different extensions to the mind. The recurrent theme of the paper will be Deely’s musing, according to which signs, unlike any other kind of being, form relations which may connect things which are mind-dependent (ens rationis) and mind-independent (ens reale). The import of this proposition is quite different if is applied to what we will call the Augustinian notion of the sign, or to the Fonseca notion, which is better termed intentionality. In both cases, however, mind-dependence will be shown to have a fundamental part to play. Following upon the redefinition of Medieval philosophy suggested by Deely, we will broach a redefinition of something even wider: meaning even beyond signs.
71. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Brian Kemple Elaboration of the Intellectual Sign
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Human beings cannot bear very much discontinuity: we innately desire resolution of our experiences, no matter how disparate they are from one another, into a common whole, into a life which “makes sense.” We desire to be persons with identities resolved into coherent wholes. But the socio-cultural world of everyday activity often presents a fragmentary and irresoluble array of experience which seemingly prevents this resolution. At the root of this fragmentation is not, however, the experiences themselves, but rather a lack of understanding concerning human cognition and consciousness. Without clarifying the possibilities of human intellection in the constitution of consciousness, we will remain at a disadvantage in the pursuit of coherent personal identities. It is to this lattermost point—how the intellectual sign is formed and how, in its formation, it in turn produces the horizons of our personal identities—that this article, conceived and reared in the tradition of thought exemplified by John Deely, is directed.
72. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Søren Brier Pragmaticism, Science, and Theology or How to Answer the Riddle of the Sphinx?
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This text is written in the honor of my scholarly friend John Deely, discussing the claims regarding the relation of modern science and religion put forth in Ashley and Deely, How Science Enriches Theology. I view it as the confrontation of a Peircean and a Thomist philosophical view of modern science and its relation to religion. I argue that the book demonstrates the problems inherent in the dialogue between a Thomist theist and a Peircean panentheist process view. Furthermore, that they are central to the contemporary philosophy of science discussion of the relation between the types of knowledge produced in the sciences and in theology. The important choice seems to be whether the link between science and religion should be based on a panentheist process concept of the divine as arising from a pure zero or on a theology with a personal god as the absolute and eternal source. I argue that Peirce’s triadic semiotic process philosophy is a unique form of panentheism in the way it draws on a combination of Schelling, Unitarianism, plus Emerson, and the transcendentalist’s spiritual ecumenical reading of Buddhist emptiness ontology and non-dualist Advaita Vedanta. This and Peirce’s synechism produce a non-confessional theological process philosophy. The surprising conclusion is that, because of its extended process philosophical grounding in emptiness, this panentheism does not assume any supernatural quality about the divine force of reasoning that drives Cosmogony. Rather Peirce’s pragmaticist formulation stands out as a true non-reductionist alternative to logical positivism’s reductionist unity science, especially in its form of mechanicism based on a concept of transcendental absolute law. The panentheism process view is also an alternative to the many forms of radical constructivism and postmodernism on the other hand. This is one of the reasons why Deely insightfully named Peirce the first true postmodernist.
legacy and memory
73. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Susan Petrilli, Augusto Ponzio With John Deely in Semio-Philosophical Research
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John Deely’s contribution to semiotics can be synthetically framed in the formula “Versus fallaciam ‘pars pro toto’” (“Against the fallacy of exchanging ‘a part for the whole’”). This is an approach he theorized and practiced in close association with Thomas A. Sebeok’s global semiotics, Deely being one of the latter’s major promotors and disseminators. All his monographs, whether books or essays, have contributed to the development of semiotics in this sense, both on a historical level, think of his translation of Poinsot’s work, and on the theoretical. Semiotics for Deely is first of all a philosophical enterprise centred upon the problem of human understanding and its signs and epitomized in the concept of “semiotic animal”. Moreover, Deely’s original analysis of the history of philosophy and its problems within the framework of four ages of understanding can be read as a contribution to our own understanding of the concept of “otherwise than being” as formulated by Emmanuel Levinas. According to Deely, this new horizon is first adumbrated in Thomas Aquinas’s neglected notion that “being as first known” involves equally ens rationis and ens reale: not only inseparable from the Umwelt of any animal, but also constitutive of the species-specific human Umwelt or Lebenswelt. The problem of the recognition of the other as other is present in filigrain in Deely’s writings, leading him to investigate the relation between ethics and philosophy. Our paper is intended as an exposition and development of themes such as these which constitute Deely’s research—interrupted no doubt, but amply developed and rich in signposts for further research itineraries.
74. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Farouk Y. Seif Imaginary Dialogue with John Deely: Playing with Boundaries Across Space and Time
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We live in a world of fact and a world of fancy, in the Peircean sense, telling real and imagined stories. In this Imaginary Dialogue with John Deely I compose narratives that integrate actual quotations from his seminal work and imaginative interpretation of our numerous conversations that took place over the years. Visiting John in May 2016 at the Latrobe Hospital and grieving his passing on January 7, 2017 were two cathartic and emancipating experiences that developed into this dialogical narrative as a commemorative manifestation of the exceptional life and the remarkable oeuvre of John Deely. It is inconceivable to separate Deely’s personal traits from his scholarly contributions as a great philosopher, semiotician, and a compassionate human being who not only graciously persevered through the semiotic paradox of life and death, but also gregariously played with many boundaries across space and time.
75. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Myrdene Anderson Another Page for “Between the Sheets”: Homage to John Deely’s “Historical Layering”
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Among John Deely’s many gifts to the Semiotic Society of America, perhaps his greatest is the SSA Style Sheet (1985, 1986) and its mandate for “historical layering”. Here I provide further reflection on some aspects of the art, craft, and science of bibliography, commemorating Deely and resuscitating the torturous birth of the SSA Style Sheet. I then summarize Deely’s compulsive defense of “historical layering” and relate his final amendment to the Style Sheet.
76. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Martin Švantner, Michal Karľa John Deely’s Influence on Prague Semiotics
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In this paper, we give account of how the present shift in thought of the Prague School of Semiotics towards the history of semiotics (including, perhaps most notably, the exegesis of Peirce’s work) has been initiated and shaped by the ideas of John Deely. We discuss how works of John Deely were “discovered” in Prague, and how they found their way into our scholarly work and curriculum. We concentrate on the two Deely’s ideas which influenced us the most: his method of the “archaeology of concepts” applicable to the study of the history of semiotics, and his historical account of what constitutes a sign in its proper being, which not only makes semiotics and its historiography possible, but also advances a new conception of philosophy considered as semiotics.
77. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
Christopher S. Morrissey John Deely (1942–2017), A Philosopher’s Life
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78. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1/2
About the Authors
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79. 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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80. 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.