Mastering phenomenological semiotics with Husserl and Peirce
Semiotics is an ancient tradition handing down problems and partial solutions giving rise to new problems and new solutions through the ages. Contemporary semiotics has a lot to learn from all the masters of this tradition, as well as from those of neighbouring disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, cognitive science, biology and evolutionary theory. This is what we today call cognitive semiotics. In this talk, however, I want to single out two masters of the study of meaning, Edmund Husserl, who only mentioned semiotics in one of his texts but thoroughly treated its fundamental issues, and Charles Sanders Peirce, who never tired of classifying signs, yet never clarified how they are different from other meanings. Both Husserl and Peirce insisted on the importance, often forgotten today, of the phenomenological method, and they defined it in very similar ways. Peirce’s phenomenology, however, appear to be only one of several possible results of Husserlean phenomenology. It could be argued, however, that Peirce’s categories tell us more about the relations of subjects to each other and to objects than Husserl’s writings about intersubjectivity. Both phenomenologies, nevertheless, stand at the origin of any future semiotics.