Forms of living & Cultural Semiotics
(Presentation in French, PowerPoint and full text will be available in English)
As a science of meaning and questioning, semiotics provides methods to query the signification of social practices and human cultural productions. It is able to understand what form and with what effects semiotic technology choices, political and social models transform our cultures conceived as meaningful wholes carrying identity focuses for all of us. We have to provide an adequate level of questioning and with a sufficient range, a "level of immanence" which would be appropriate to the nature and the level of problems to deal with.
This level of immanence is the one of forms of living, defined first as meaningful, composite and consistent sets which are the immediate constituents of cultures. Forms of living are themselves composed of texts, signs, objects and practices; they carry values and guiding principles. They say and determine the meaning of the life we lead and of behaviors that we adopt; they give us identity and reasons to exist and to act in this world and into our cultures.
But the forms of living, from the point of view of the history of ideas, belong to the field of linguistics and language theory: first the philosophy of language, with Wittgenstein, and then the semiotic theory of enunciative praxis, with Greimas. This concept was not developed in the field of cultural studies, nor conceived to understand the cultures and to account for their transformations. Meanwhile, traditional semiotics of culture, at least those that appear like (especially within the School of Tartu-Moscow), make no reference to it, and do not seem to have the use.
The objective of this ongoing debate is redefining forms of living as immediate constituent of cultures, and even as the main level of immanence, which is and necessary to account at the same time for their consistency, their deformations and their transformations. After a review of the conception of forms of living in Wittgenstein, this study will provide a conceptual reconfiguration of them, including the consideration of their phenomenological, sensitive and subjective dimension.
First, we propose a definition of their syntagmatic coherence (based on the principle of "perseverance"), and of their paradigmatic congruence (based on the principle of "congruent selections and axiological weightings"). We may show that the quest for the meaning of life in the forms of living is originated in the sensible experience of their "imperfection", and it will lead to the characterization of the "elementary moods" which raise from this experience, and on which forms of human living are grounded.