Eero Tarasti (email@example.com)
Zdzisław Wąsik (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This Round Table will focus on the foundations of Existential Semiotics that opened a new paradigm in the study of man seven years ago. It was launched at the 9th Congress of the IASS/AIS – Helsinki-Imatra: 11–17 June, 2007. Departing from phenomenology as the study of human experience which is consciously realized by senses (or lived through) from a subjective or first person point of view, it will concentrate on rethinking the layouts of human-centered semiotics in the light of selected philosophers who paid attention to such notions as, inter alia, “subject”, “existence”, “transcendence”, and “value”. In search of the roots of existential semiotics, it will go back to the logics of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the first philosopher who characterized his approach to reality as phenomenology with reference to Immanuel Kant, but who, unlike Kant, expressed his conviction that phenomena constitute a sufficient basis for a universal science of being. The starting point will constitute here Hegel’s categories of an-sich-sein (‘being-in-itself’) and für-sich-sein(‘being-for-itself’). These categories subsequently turned into subjective and objective being in the philosophy of Søren Aabye Kierkegaard when he spoke about an individual as an observer of him- or herself or the observed one ‘who was said to be a subject or such an individual who was what he/she was because he/she had become like it’. Jean-Paul Sartre, a careful reader of Hegel and Kierkegaard in line, referred to Hegelian concepts using his own terms, être-en-soi and être-pour-soi . For Sartre, the being as such becomes aware of itself through an act of negation, and when becoming an observer of itself, it shits its attention into the position of being for itself. Having noticed a lack in its reality, the being begins with the first act of transcendence as far as it strives to fulfill what it lacks. Hegelian concepts of an-sich-sein and für-sich-sein, have been further changedinto an-mir-sein and für-mich-sein (‘being-in-myself’ and ‘being-for-myself’), in Jacques Fontanille’s study of corporeal semiotics. In the modernization of Hegelian categories, Fontanille presents a distinction between individual and social being forms of human body (soma) in an entirely new phenomenological sense (séma). Accordingly, Fontanille proposes to detach two meanings within the body of human agents (actants), distinguishing, on the one hand, the body being experienced inside as a flesh, which forms the center of all physiological and semiotic processes, and, on the other, the body being observed outside of a human organism, which constitutes its identity and directional principle. Participants of this thematic session may enter into discussions in which the novel concepts of existential semiotics will be placed against the philosophical background of such notional categories as Umwelt, Lebenswelt and Dasein. They may also pose respective questions or present their own contributions to the issues, directions of study and/or theories relating to logical and linguistic conceptions of sign-and-meaning, which have been elaborated in the domain of traditional semiotics and the philosophy of language.
Tarasti, Eero 2000. Existential Semiotics. Bloomington, Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press.
Tarasti, Eero 2009. What is existential semiotics? From theory to application, In: Tarasti, Eero (ed.), Communication: Understanding / Misunderstanding. Proceedings of the 9th Congress of the IASS/AIS – Helsinki-Imatra: 11–17 June, 2007. Acta Semiotica Fennica XXXIV. Imatra: International Semiotics Institute at Imatra and Helsinki, FI: Semiotic Society of Finland, 1755–1772.
Tarasti, Eero 2011. Existential semiotics and cultural psychology. In: Valsiner, J(aan) (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. Part. III, 15. Oxford, EN and New York, NY: Oxford University Press (Oxford Library of Psychology), 316–343.
Tarasti, Eero 2012. Semiotics of Classical Music: How Mozart, Brahms and Wagner Talk to Us. Berlin, BE, Boston, MA: De Gruyter Mouton (Semiotics, Communication and Cognition 10).
Wąsik, Zdzisław 2014 in print. A solipsistic paradigm of neosemiotics (Against the heritage of “the Riches in the Old and Modern World”). Proceedings of the Summer School 2013 – Autocommunication in Semiotic Systems. 40 years after the Theses on the Semiotic Study of Culture, Kääriku, Estonia, August 18–23, 2013. Tartu, EE: University of Tartu Press (Sign Systems Studies).
1. Abraham Solomonick, Ministry of Education, Jerusalem (email@example.com)
Four Kinds of Semiotics
1. The first and foremost definition of semiotics is that it is a science of signs. Let us take it as our starting point here for further ponderings. Different signs are so pervading in our life, that it would be very strange to treat all of them in one individual block. And really, after more than twenty years of dealing with semiotic matters, I came to the conclusion that we cannot restrict the treatment of signs into one single approach. We have to disperse them into, at least, four various currents or branches. These four groups are different in their philosophical and ontological underpinnings and diverse from each other along different dimensions.
Below I give a very succinct description of each group which I suggest to consider as different trends of semiotic investigations.
2. The main and leading semiotic trend is our human one which has as its basis in our mental logical and scientific strivings. In this approach we either single out signs from existing natural surroundings or invent them from our mind. This trend evolves in accord with the development of the human race, and consequently all of civilization. Signs in this perspective come into being by human volition. At our meetings we usually discuss signs and sign-systems of this kind. Let us call signs in this category usual kind of signs.
3. Quite a different trend of sign development we find among animals and vegetables. All living organisms respond to signs (that is why they are called living), which they come across in nature; but the responsive mechanisms in this trend differ from humans. They are either instinctive and hereditary or behaviorist in the simplest pattern of “stimulus – response”, which are imbibed. Animals and plants are bereft of our logical and mental possibilities to understand the meaning of a sign as something that reflects something else, and usually they do not create new signs, referring only to those that they already possess.
I consider zoo and vegetation semiotics as a special branch of our science capable of studying possibilities in various living organisms that are far deficient from human potential in this respect. It has special methods of analysis different from our human approach. Actually, at this point lies the border between humans and all other living beings. Humans usually are defined as “somebody who can speak”. I broaden this definition to “humans are those living beings who can create and use signs”.
4. The next semiotic current deals with the signs we insert into machines and mechanisms. These are data which demand special response from the mechanism. The more quick and exact response we get, the better. Whereas people and even animals can misunderstand the input and hesitate in its implementation, machines must completely comply with it, since each digression leads to catastrophe. Whereas humans can simultaneously conceive on the right retort to any stimulus and on the why it was given, inanimate matter can only docilely obey to the input in mechanical order. So our attitudes to the signs ingrained in mechanisms ought to be different from the point of semiotics than our attitudes to usual signs.
4. The fourth trend, diverse from the three mentioned above, is the approach towards those manifestations which are considered as cultural or other sorts of social occurrences. It is definitely human in its origin and means of analysis, but from the first current it differs in that it deals with symbols and not with signs in their common meaning. Symbols are also signs, but signs sui generis, and we deal with them specifically, not like with usual signs. Symbols differ from usual signs in that, besides the usual function of denotation, they also possess some ideological sense that grows into their central trait and raison d'être. Also this branch will get its special weight and place among semiotic proceedings.
5. I suppose that mature semiotic will comprise the four mentioned variations collected into one branch of science studying all kinds of signs in their various implementations. Naturally to this end we should work out a type of general semiotics having specific philosophical and theoretic foundations common to all of the four said branches and separately – for each specific branch. The general semiotics will provide the common roof for all kinds of semiotics, like general medicine gives it to various medical branches or general chemistry to organic and non-organic types of chemistry (and other branches of it). I suggest to call signs in the most developed kind of semiotics (the first one here) – usual signs; signs among living organism besides humans – signals; signs for mechanisms – input data; and signs of social inclination – symbols.
2. Tuukka Brunila, University of Helsinki (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The nature of reality in existential semiotics
What I attempt to aim at in my presentation is to examine philosophically the nature of reality in existential semiotics.
Concerning this I claim that there is a fundamental duality in existential semiotics. On the one hand, there is the reality of appearance and narrativity, which is the reality of the Dasein, but on the other hand, there is that which is transcendental to it, namely the transcendence. In my presentation I will attempt to draw connections with the philosophical tradition which has concerned itself with the nature of reality. This will lead me to the two important thinkers (I claim) behind existential semiotics: Hegel and Heidegger. I will however also attempt to see parallels between the pre-Socratic thinkers of Ancient Greece and with the writings of Plato for, I will argue, they also express in their philosophy the idea of reality as (at the same time) something permanent and changing.
3. Charalampos Magoulas, National School of Public Health, Athens (email@example.com)
Nietzsche and the subject
When research on Nietzsche’s existentialism –as a matter of fact, as the other side of the same coin regarding his nihilism– comes to his fundamental premise on the death of god, one might say that he actually assumes the death of individual subject. Moreover, his criticism on traditional narratives or complexes of meanings, such as religion and ethics, leads inevitably to the denial of language and the symbolic functions of human intellect in favour of judgments and actions, which originate from experience, instincts and the will to power. Would therefore Nietzsche reject any semiotic interpretation of systems of values, given that he refuses the use of language –and, hence, the possibility to construct network of meanings– as an already biased means of communication? Would he declare the death of subject as a completely impotent entity, castrated by his slave morality? This paper aims at supporting the concept of subject in Nietzsche existentialism and providing a semiotic approach to perspectivism as the condition for the occurrence of new political subjects.
4. Elżbieta Magdalena Wąsik, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Towards a unified conception of the self within the framework of existential semiotics
This paper discusses general foundations of the positivistic conception of a human individual considered from the perspective of the self-oriented studies. Moreover, it focuses on the human self as a member of a society and an active participant of observable interpersonal and assumable intersubjective collectivities in relation to its linguistic and communicative properties. Making use of the notion of the self originating in the philosophical works of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), William James (1842–1910) and George Herbert Mead (1863–1931), it opts for explaining the nature of self-consciousness in terms of the duality of its manifestations in the mind. Accordingly, it treats the human self as (1) the subject (or the I who experiences, thinks, and speaks), and (2) the object of his or her own experiences, thoughts and utterances (or the me as a physical person). By the way, attention will be paid to the fact that, regarding the specificity of particular languages, the distinction between the mental subject and the physical person expressible in English does not make sense in the same way, for example, in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian where one speaks rather about twofold qualities of an ego, i.e., corporeal-empirical and subjective-rational. Thus, with regard to sending or receiving and understanding or interpreting activities of communication participants, one refers to inter-corporeal and inter-subjective relationships among them. To end with, one must emphasize that the notion of the self as such is not fully mutually translatable from one language into another and has different connotations, for example, in English, German and Polish.
All in all, the aim of this paper is to report on steps of its author’s reasoning which allowed her to propose the notion of the linguistic self approachable predominantly, if not exclusively, from the viewpoint of the significative-communicative acts performed by humans in their life-worlds. Thus, the paper will expound on selected philosophical outlooks on man and his mental endowment responsible for the emergence of language. In particular, the subject of deliberations will constitute such terms as conceptual and methodological tools as (1) the ecology of organisms from biology, (2) existence and transcendence from phenomenology, (3) the distinction between the physical and logical domains from human linguistics, and (4) forms of beings of the subject and modalities of their expression in verbal and nonverbal means from existential semiotics.
5. Zdzisław Wąsik, Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław & Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland
A solipsistic paradigm of new semiotics in the light of existential phenomenology and anthropological linguistics
The subject matter of this lecture will constitute a phenomenological and linguistic typology of significative-communicative properties of man as a semiotic animal embedded in its ecological surrounding of living and non-living as well as natural and artificial systems. Focusing on the semiotic self as an investigative object, new semiotic studies following the solipsistic anthropocentrism are counterpoised to traditional semiotic studies governed by the rules of collective semiocentrism. Instead of dealing with sign- and referent-related properties of communicational products, practitioners of new semiotics are interested in the dynamic properties of human individuals on account of their sign- or meaning-processing activities. This lecture will investigate the difference between animals and humans as to the nature of their subjective universes on the basis of existential phenomenology, philosophy of biology, and biological semiotics. Furthermore, it will take a look on the defining characteristics of speech derivable from the contrast between the verbal and non-verbal means of animal and human communication from the perspective of anthropological linguistics.
Having compared the subjective states of organisms with respect to the absence or presence of intentionality, slave or master relationships, closeness and openness of their environments, existential phenomenologists have argued that animals are bound in totality to their subjective universe and humans may transcend it by going to another kind of reality. As conscious individuals humans are endowed with free will allowing them to change and to shape their world of everyday life. Animal organisms have been described as behaving instinctively and human organisms as comporting themselves with reflection and stance-taking. Semiotically inclined phenomenologists have applied the sign- and meaning-processing-oriented approach to ponder the existential modes of animals and humans in terms of their being in the world as immanence and being for the world as transcendence. Immanent subjects are regarded as existing in their environments and transcendent subjects as being able to go beyond their universe of life. Additional divergence between animals and humans have been observed in the their ego-related awareness of corporeality or intercorporeality and subjectivity or intersubjectivity status and in their conscious awareness of the meaning of being alive and the ability of taking stand to the existence in the surrounding or existing for the surrounding. Considering the organism’s relations to the world they live in, it is the matter of becoming in the world and becoming of the world as a result of these relations. Important are relationships of organisms to their environment in terms of how they affect it or how they are affected by it. Organisms differ, therefore, in the potential networks of affective relationships with their environments. In another context of scientific reflections, representatives of anthropological linguistics have derived the species-specific properties of animals and humans, with regard to their communicative means, from: immutability or interchangeability of sender-receiver roles, innateness or experientiality in generational acquisition and transmission, naturalness or conventionality of origin, constancy or variability and stability or changeability, boundedness or displacement ability in time and space, instinctiveness or intentionality, globality and continuity or segmentability and discreteness of patterning, etc.
Composing gesture-topics: a semiotics approach on Villa-Lobos’ Dances.
One of the most important Brazilian composers, Heitor Villa-Lobos has developed a remarkable creative and exuberant language. Understanding his style, ideology, technique, strategies, etc., remains a challenge. My concern is to offer a reconsideration about Villa-Lobos’ music and its relationship with the Brazilian musical hybridism to identify the use of the Brazilian nationalistic elements as a step to realize his compositional ideology.
An existential semiotics-based analytical approach should be a powerful means to highlight Villa-Lobos’ compositional ideology, especially to explore of the mechanics of composition and expression in a particular genre known as “dance”, in relation to specific Brazilian national and nationalist creative features emerging from his particular creative processes which allows identify cultural-musical signs into the Brazilian orchestral music. To demonstrate it, what I attempt to aim in my presentation, is to draw his approach of the use of representative components in his musical gestures writing as sound movements provided with meanings through cultural experience, via the analysis of the “Danças caracteristicas Africanas” (African Folk Dances), which was one of the first attempts to conduct to the “musical miscegenation” in the way to building the “alma brasileira” (Brazilian soul) as the Brazilian musical language of concert.
7. Markku Sormunen, University of Helsinki, student, (email@example.com)
On the Z-model
In Existential Semiotics, the term, Dasein refers to an internal world of a subject, but also to another subjects and objects in ones environment. Theory includes a model of four cases of ‘Being’: Being-in-myself, Being-for-myself, Being-for-oneself and Being-in-oneself represented in its Z-model. Every one of these cases involves the relation between Moi, Me, and Soi, Society, the other. I assume that it is about how two realities, Moi-reality and Soi-reality interacts and are related within ones Dasein. Among other, the Moi-reality means the ability of a subject to feel, act and change both the world of his/her Dasein and ones Umwelt. But this individual reality exists not alone but connected to Soi-reality with its norms, rules, laws, which comes from outside the subject. There are, of course, some differences between the Moi- and Soi-realities. Within the subjects Dasein, the Soi-reality has no sensuality or awareness. As we examine these realities in the viewpoint of existential semiotics we get access to them via pre-signs, act-signs, post-signs, endo-signs, exo-signs, trans-signs, geno-signs. We can also change the aspect in Z-model from Moi-Z to Soi-Z and do this in two ways which we can call Zemic and Zetic. Emic and etic comes from Kenneth Pike, an american linguist and anthropologist and they mean something like 'from the perspective of subject' and 'from the perspective of observer'. Existential semiotic theory is therefore the Zetic aspect to Zemic. In the larger Soi-reality we realize that our subject can not move direct from pure sensuality to other modes of Being. There are always other who 'decides which texts and modalities are to preserved and further transmitted' to other as Tarasti writes. In my essay I try to examine the relation and interaction of Moi- and Soi-realities within subjects Dasein.
8. Niculae Mihaita, University of Economics at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Applying the concepts of second order cybernetics and experiential semiotics for the deconstruction of reality in the absurd theater (on the basis of Eugène Ionesco’s plays)
In search of analytical tools for exposing the existential aspects of human selves as presented in a surrealist way on a theatrical stage, I am interested in finding innovative approaches to the structure of drama, moving outside the traditional field of literary studies, and intersecting other related fields that operate with divergent investigative paradigms. Two areas appear here to be promising, the second-order cybernetics (the observer inside the observed system) and semiotics (the study of signs and sign-processing activities, especially within the context of interpersonal communication), as far as there is somehow a noticeable bridge between them.
The reason is that the distinct paradigms, which function within the different fields, are by their very nature incommensurable, and one has to create a new paradigm from elementary propositions that encapsulate the desirable elements having been extracted from a collective set of paradigms. This is not always seen as an appropriate way towards the traditional paradigms whose holders tend to oppose alternative perspectives being constrained by the boundaries they have created for themselves.
Here is the debate that I feel a need for to substantiate a double deconstruction of reality while using the cybernetics' and semiotics' concepts. What is the domain of interest for me? It is the theory of absurd or the absurd theater in general and Eugène Ionesco’s plays in particular. Why? Because the various meanings of script lines cannot express the real or true essence of human existence, I am postulating to employ the theoretical apparatus of experiential semiotics.
How it is done? The methodology used for revealing interactive relationships in a play, strong or weak, hidden, spurious or false, for an original interpretation of what is perceived in the absurdist theatre as surreal, illogical, stupid or plotless, is the information theory, Claude Elwood Shannon’s entropy or Octav Onicescu’s informational energy.
What is the basis for the inquiry? Albert Camus’s absurdist existentialism in The Myth of Sisyphus might be useful for answering such questions, as, for example: In one play of Eugène Ionesco where human beings are transforming into rhinoceros, is it an act of suicide? The empty chairs and conversations on The Chairs’ stage, are they real or true? How could the dramatic visualization of Foursome be judged when the majority of observers (audience) say that ‘I did not understand anything’?
In the deconstruction from the viewpoint of surrealism, the aim of a researcher is to find out how the subconscious mind (of authors) can create the works of art as palimpsests of conscious and unconscious thoughts. At this instant, the audience is possibly convinced that in Foursome, when not two then three persons on a stage, without coherent phrases, ripe the limbs and arms of a Pretty Lady, but only one of them, with tormented thoughts, as in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, destroys her photograph. Doesn’t it look as a suicide?
A real-and-truth analysis over The Chairs and Foursome show that: the guests on chairs do not exist but the conversation is understandable; the conversation has no meaning but the persons could be seen; the Orator could not deliver a message but he enters on a stage; Pretty Lady experiences a message but it is an illusion, etc.
9. Fernando Alfredo Rivera Bernal, Universidad Nacional, Bogotá, Colombia (email@example.com)
Cronopaisajística y teratologías del yo: De la sujetividad serial a la subjetividad intermitente
La ‘identidad’, cualquiera que fuere, lo es al interior de estructuras regulativas de significación traducidas en repertorios simbólicos y prácticas sociales susceptibles de leerse en su dimensión textual, al interior de la cual se pueden identificar sistemas relacionales de significación que determinan y densifican fases espacio-temporales o cronopaisajes discriminables. Un cronopaisaje es la textura, la textualidad y el texto generados por la triangulación de formas de habitabilidad, gramáticas de sociabilidad y tramas de protocolos cotidianos y consumos culturales, cuya interconexión se materializa en ‘representaciones sociales’ con carácter adscripticio y por ello identitario, dispositivos, consumos y prácticas de ‘distinción simbólica’. De tal manera, el cronopaisaje como filtro analítico visibiliza el entrecruzamiento de tres volumetrías. Primera, las escenografías identitarias, las formas arquitectónico-urbanísticas o habitabilidades y comunicabilidades que regulan flujos y contactos, topografían zonas de visibilidad e invisibilidad, señalan maneras y focos de exhibición y ocultamiento demarcando/permeando las fronteras de lo público y lo privado, de lo espectacular y lo íntimo. Segunda, las dramaturgias identitarias, las redes de sociabilidad o matrices y esquemas relacionales e interaccionales, las normativas, prescripciones y reglas de interacción, los protocolos, sanciones, prohibiciones y permisiones, en otras palabras, las lógicas que regulan dinámicas sociales y sistemas de jerarquización simbólica y socio-espacial. Tercera, las escénicas, o narrativas identificatorias subyacentes en las prácticas y consumos culturales que constituyen dinámicas de distinción simbólica y patrones interpretativos, valorativos y conductuales, resueltos en dos campos: las ‘representaciones sociales’, entendidas como dispositivos texto-discursivos con funciones orientadoras, referenciales, y particularmente identitarias; y las ‘prácticas culturales’, que concatenan sistemas objetuales y sistemas procesuales, formas de hacer resueltas en protocolos de ejecución, protocolos de interacción, exhibición y visibilización social, y protocolos de ritualización. Si la ‘identidad’ es el producto de interacciones simbólico-discursivas, y su sedimentación consecuencia de matrices relacionales, dichas mallas interconectan polimórficamente formas de cognición (evaluación), formas de sensibilidad (valoración), y formas de acción social o programas conductuales (transformación).
Los cronopaisajes, así, componen ‘puestas en escena’ identitarias que, en tanto formas de habitabilidad, comprometen en primera instancia la configuración psíquica de una corporalidad y de una espacialidad circunscrita por la tensión entre interioridad y exterioridad, continente y contenido, fermentando un topos específico, el lugar desde el cual se constituye, pregunta-habla-pregunta, escucha, interpela, y como efecto de ello, siente el sujeto enunciante-deseante. Un sujeto inmerso en la dialéctica entre mismidad y otredad que, precisamente como proyección de la contracción-desgarradura entre lo Uno fantaseado y lo Otro absoluto y constrictivo, impregnante y determinante, bien puede inventarse, disolverse, multiplicarse, invertirse o afirmarse, es decir, fantasearse al interior del entorno dentro del cual se constituye. Lo que señala su carácter procesual, su dinámica transformativa, esto es, temporal. El sujeto se escinde, de tal manera, en una identidad interpelativa frente a los otros y determinado por el Otro, y en una subjetividad cognitiva y sensorio-emocional, afectiva y afectativa. Así también su fragmentada y desfasada temporalización, el sujeto en proceso se modula a partir de una heterocronía fundamental, tiempos múltiples lo habitan. En otras palabras, un cronopaisaje es, también, un ecosistema fantasmático y una escrituralidad, proyectados por cadenas significantes y redes simbólicas: crono-grafos o espacialidades constitutivas del registro imaginario, crono-gramas o regularidades constitutivas del registro simbólico, y crono-grafías o procesualidades constitutivas de la arqui-textura identitaria, polimorfías del yo. La subjetividad, consecuentemente, como efecto de presiones, imbricaciones y permeaciones entre lo imaginado, lo simbolizado y lo vivido: crono-poiética. Tres espacio-temporalidades se intersectan así, tres entornos, esferas, semiósferas: el arquitectónico (habitabilidades), el presciptivo (regulaciones), y el psíquico (emociones/re-presentaciones), condensando oscilaciones de visibilidad (presencia-ausencia), que se resuelven, por lo menos, en cuatro vectores de correlación temporal: la instantaneidad mimética, la anticipación prospectiva (imaginaria), la síntesis retrodictiva (simbólica), y la suspensión liminar (no-simbólica/no-imaginaria).
Además de jeroglífico y repertorio simbólico, la ciudad y sus mico-textualidades cronopaisajísticas son un dispositivo-máquina óptico-visual, una optometría icónica en cuyo juego de espejos difracta-refracta-refleja su habitante (‘huesped’), modulando identidades, formas del yo y estilísticas subjetivas, que se expresan en la totalidad de las prácticas y con sagital intensidad en las narrativas auto-reflexivas o biográficas. Un cronopaisaje, entendido como red simbólico-interaccional, entreteje una subjetividad, una identidad y un vacío, temporalizando el ecosistema espacial mediante trazas escriturales que devienen narrativas psíquicas, lugares y figuras de enunciación. Si el yo se constituye fantasmáticamente en la ilusoria identificación con el Otro, mediado e intermediado, atravesado y escindido por un ‘significante primordial’, cuya incidencia matricial espacializa al sujeto inscribiéndole una geometría identitaria y una temporalidad constructiva/re-constructiva, entonces, podríamos preguntarnos por las características espacio-temporales (lugares y correlaciones) de tal inscripción cuando el otro (semejante constitutivo ‘a imagen’ del cual se articula el yo), se manifiesta y visibiliza en un entorno doblemente virtual: por un lado, el de la impregnación imaginaria y la constricción simbólica, propios del estatuto fundacional del sujeto; por otro lado, el de la presencia digital ofertada por las redes internáuticas de interacción.
Cuáles dinámicas de identificación y subjetivación operaron en los cronopaisajes que fermentaron el sujeto de la modernidad industrial, y cuáles operan en aquellos cronopaisajes ya no escenográficos sino inmaterialmente escénicos, al interior de los cuales se fraguan las actuales ofertas-consumos identitarios, tal como se despliegan en las ‘instantáneas’ redes sociales virtuales? Qué tan homeomórfica o catastrófica se delata la interpelación identitaria, y con ello la espacio-temporalización del sujeto forjado en las ciudades de la industrialización, con respecto a aquellas morfo-dinámicas identificatorias, aún en proceso de licuefacción, que determinan al post-‘flaneur’ de la cada vez más densa megalópolis tecno-comunicativa? Más específicamente, qué ‘extimidad’ del sujeto coagula en la Palabra-Síntoma de un ‘like’, de un ‘me gusta’, tal como se signa/marca en los ‘muros’ de Facebook? Y el ‘me gusta’, es equivalente a un ‘quiero’, ‘creo’, ‘espero’, ‘deseo’, ‘repudio’ o ‘temo’? Y quien quiere, cree, espera, desea, repudia o teme, es el mismo ciudadano autobiográfico correlacionado con la ‘subjetividad serial’ inscrita por la modernidad y el capitalismo-industrializado? Si sólo somos teratologías del crono-paisaje que nos engendró, cuál es nuestro contemporáneo bautizo, con qué fantasmáticas se nos narra? Zombies o muertos-vivos, vampiros o no-muertos, palimpsestos frankenstenianos o no-vivos?
10) Daina Teters, Latvian Academy of Culture, Riga (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Semiotics of absence or fascination for nothing
During the particular period of an epistemological enthusiasm, when the first interconnected sprouts of proto-scientific and proto-semiotic thinking emerged in the Western philosophy, a concept of the world had been established where everything, including the world in itself, was seen as a thing. Logically, one could arrive at an inference that the totality of entities constitutes a unification of the manifoldness into a new entity – the world. What gives one an idea about such a “thinging” of the world and guarantees a cognitive access to things is a conceptual vision. This vision makes one think or see the things in his or her mind’s eyes as virtual, cognizable shells, the surface of which gives one the possibility to read the particular signs of a different value either as a simple index /sèmeion/ or as a marker of evidence /tekmèrion/, which can be replaced by other signs. That is why geometry stands out with a set of particularly privileged tools for the selection of things as virtual entities, whereas the number guarantees the things as definite units and the arrangement of them aggregate into a system or a translation of the manifoldness of the world into mathematical terms. Finally, the things in question happen to acquire their semantic colouring in a given language.
Bearing in mind potential occurrences of various systems of signs, the aforementioned concept of the world and the knowledge about it has given rise to a paradoxical statement of ignorance, which, actually, is a hidden absolutization of knowing, namely, the knowing of nothing. Taking a closer look at the Socratic ‘I know that I know nothing’, one can obviously see that this is, in fact, a conclusion. It can also be stated as follows: ‘I know that I know something’; ‘I know that I don’t know anything (i.e., something)’; ‘I know that I know nothing’. However, how is it possible to know about nothing if Socrates asserts that he knows nothing? Thus, the technological resources of the language enable its users to construct a verbal object which is contradictory to itself – the nothing. What is important is the fact that this verbal technology conceals an enormous potential for the negation, metaphysical mutations and speculations, which, in its turn, have had far-reaching consequences in the tradition of Western thinking and civilization.
The paper is devoted to the architecture of the conceptual origin of nothingness along with the challenges that might be posed by this theoretically constructed reality to semiotics. As such, it can be also considered as an antiquity-rooted contribution to the semiotics of existence vs. non-existence of things in the philosophical sense.
11) Brandon Mells, University of California Los Angeles, (email@example.com)
Towards a phenomenology of darkness and light
Born out of an interest in the organization of human vision vis-à-vis visual and material signs (see Jappy 2013; Keane 2003), in this presentation I aim to develop a phenomenology of darkness and light (see also Gertz 2010). That said, this work is situated primarily from a perspective lodged within an analysis of language and human action which takes Charles Sanders Peirce’s (1839–1914) conception of the sign as its fundamental point of departure. The impetus for a semiotics of light/darkness came through my ethnographic fieldwork with police officers working at night. In addition to the dangers of work as a police officer, working in the dark (in general) is essentially working with the absence of visual signs. (From a biosemiotic perspective, because humans can detect only a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum, what we call darkness can be understood as a distinctly human experience.) As a historically sedimented solution to the problem faced by the experience of darkness, we have inherited things like flashlights from our predecessors (à la Alfred Schütz,1899–1959), and we use them to carve out visual “sense” of the concealed world of present but absent signs. Of course, flashlights are themselves the socio-historical product of a long history of using fire in human society, and myths about the origin of fire like Prometheus' theft from the gods appear in different societies across the world. Thus, part of our unique human semiotic capacity is found in our use of tools for illuminating what is concealed from sight. It is the power to reveal the “there” before us that makes things accessible or hidden. Heidegger noted just this relationship between Dasein and darkness in his discussion of Lichtung, i.e., a clearing:
When we talk in an ontically figurative way of the lumen naturale in man, we have in mind nothing other than the existential-ontological structure of this entity, that it is in such a way as to be its “there.” To say that it is 'illuminated' means that as Being-in-the-world it is cleared in itself, not through any other entity, but in such a way that it is itself the clearing. Only for an entity which is existentially cleared in this way does that which is present-at-hand become accessible in the light or hidden in the dark. By its very nature, Dasein brings its “there” along with it. If it lacks its “there,” it is not factically the entity which is essentially Dasein; indeed it is not this entity at all. Dasein is its disclosedness (1962 :171; original italics).
The object of my investigation will be twofold then:
1) How do actors organize their vision of absence? Or, that is to say, how do particular signs of “organized obfuscation” emerge from the disorganized and highly complex visual field constituted by darkness? The answer to this question, though relevant to how the visually impaired organize their embodied existence in the world, is yet not a theory of perception without sight. Crucially, darkness can only exist for sighted individuals precisely because it is not just the absence of visual signs but also the possibility (real or not) of seeing what is absent. The blind (and even more so the deaf-blind) do not live in darkness, but in a world of tactility where the resonances of bodies, forms, and planes impinge on the self, and there is no possibility of another sign medium. For the sighted person in darkness, these same resonances are similarly proprioceptively perceived, but in having what is present-at-hand concealed from sight, the world loses its readiness-to-hand thus jarring Dasein from the situatedness of itself. In these moments in the experience of darkness, “transcendence occurs amidst the world of Dasein as its unexpected illumination” (cf. Tarasti 2000: 21) but this illumination precedes the actors' illumination of the concealed world through tools; specifically, in experiencing darkness, transcendence occurs when the absent world is transformed by the self as in need of illumination. The actor's use of the flashlight then is an interpretant to the concealed world. Seeing something as concealed is only possible through endo-signs through which the self organizes the obfuscated and the absent.
2) The origin of morality is also central to a phenomenology of light and darkness. In the work of police officers in particular (my observations of which inform much of this analysis), illuminating the world is done in anticipation of the bad, the foreign or the unsafe. In this way, the use of the flashlight suggests something about the moral character of what is illuminated. However, this is not restricted to police officers. For example, an electrician who illuminates the wires s/he is connecting beneath the crawl space of a house uses a flashlight in order to achieve the task at hand. In both cases, then, the object is illuminated so that it can be a focus of scrutiny, and similarly in both cases the state of concealment is in need of correction. Darkness then is much like Heidegger's broken tool for in obscuring the world, the world itself loses its readiness-to-hand and becomes merely present-at-hand. And here we encounter the world anew in darkness not as better or improved, but as degraded, lesser, and inadequate. There are very few things humans need darkness for (sleep, meditation, and film development are some of the only crucial examples); humans are semiotically tied to the rich, visual complexity offered to us by light. A phenomenology of darkness thus reveals about us as semiotic selves something, which is both simultaneous with and beyond the mere ability to see, hear, interpret and in turn produce signs (i.e., the ability to transform the world through logos). A phenomenology of darkness reveals who we are by what we resist and how the human will behind a tool like a flashlight conquers that which would otherwise rule it. The emergence of the ability to use light is thus a kind of semiotic conquering of nature. In this way, our visual semiotic capacity is defined not just by light (i.e., the eye's ability to detect certain frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum), but also by Prometheus' eternal suffering for freeing us from darkness.
12) Sari Helkala-Koivisto, University of Helsinki (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Proposal: Z-model application – prosodic pre-sign on autism
“Existential signs”, affective syndrome on autism (ASD) has been approached to this day mainly by medicine, by neurological and behavioral sciences. Mental retardation Medicine and neurosciences have researched autism spectrum disorder developing the ways to comprehend and treat the neurobiological disorders. In behavioral sciences the scrutiny has focused on finding special education and family-oriented methods to rehabilitate children and young people living with autism spectrum. Autism has a neurobiological origin. The fact has been revealed through many verified results and discussions in the field of autism research. Main difficulties related to autism are in communication and social interaction. Speech development is progressing normally very slow or a child has a lack of speech. Speech understanding is based on narrow and concrete level of linguistic realization. On the other hand people on spectrum can prove to be very intelligent and have the ingenious capabilities in some specific areas of abstract thinking. There is no need to have any special musical sensitivity, but non-verbal signs within music develop the skills to interact and communicate with other people. Music seems to have both bodily genetic and cultural sign systems that motivate developing body-mind and expression skills between two.
This presentation is based on my present study in musicology and existential semiotics. A semiotic approach provides an opportunity to look at autism as an existent social phenomenon in parallel with normal non-autistic way of living. The assimilation or counter setting of two different ways to be a human, and have living existence, leads one easily to compare of mentioned items. A present research moves between two opposite cultures, autistic and non-autistic. It examines music as a communicative sign between two individuals (Dasein). You exist in beingof autism and me doing from the starting pointof non-autism. Musical dialogue signifies the construction of musical subject (a third process) in the development of two self- process. Semiotic discovery through music to non-verbal space of human existence is guided by a new application of Existential semiotic Z-model and by Julia Kristeva’s khora as primary human basics of corporeal neuro-psychoanalytic intertextuality.
13) Roberto Mastroianni Ph.D., C.I.R.Ce- Center Interdepartmental Research on Communication, University of Turin, Italy.
Signs and Existence:The Existential Semiotics of Eero Tarasti between Existentialism, Semiotics and Philosophical Anthropology
The existential semiotics of Eero Tarasti proposes to explain which dynamics come into play in “states before signs are formed,” or in “existential situations,” in which mankind and the signs are positioned, before they crystallize into forms that can be analysed, classified and studied. This research project is presented as a: Epistemological choices; a new theory of the subject; a new aesthetic perspective and a new existentialism perspective. This lectured presents a panoramic vision on the relationship between signs, existence and transcendence, which developed as a result of constant philosophizing to establish an “existential clarification” of semiotics. The theory of Tarasti selects existentialism as a philosophic koiné and does so by confronting the thinkers responsible for making it famous and identifiable (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Jaspers...) and proposes a semiotic point of view on: the existential condition of humankind”; the “existential states in which the subject and the signs are collocated before being ‘immersed’”; the “relationship of the subject with ‘otherness’ and the world”; and the “ethical and political components of human existence.” Existential semiotics can be considered a species of semiotic existentialism: a semiotic theory which examines the relationship between existence, possibility, the conditions of existence and semiotic processes. There are various existentialist forms, origins and structures, which can be divided into two broad categories: ontological existentialism (Heidegger, Maritain...) and anthropological existentialism (Sartre, Levinas....). The highest form of ontological existentialism is that which is rooted in the Heideggerian tradition, which stems from Sein und Zeit and which refers to the imperfect parallelism between two couples of concepts, such as “existential/existentiell” and “ontic/ontological.” For Heideggerism and post-Heideggerism, “existentialism is the theory of the various possible modes of being, considered abstractly as pure and neutral a priori, indistinct and indifferent to any kind of concrete distinction, even if by nature they also always represent concrete and distinct modes, which constitute the a priori foundation of the possibility of concrete, ontic decisions (existentiell). Every concrete relationship of the individual is existential [...] ... a concrete aspect of their being, conditioned and ontologically motivated [...] by the existentialism of being.” From this perspective, the concrete problems encountered by the individual in daily life would be “existentiell,” while the specific problems of reflecting upon, and serving, existence itself would be “existential.” Existential thought could thus only be carried out inside an existence. Its roots would therefore be profoundly “existentiell.” Tarasti thus chooses to make his own “extended version” of existentialism: a vision which has more in common with the French-style anthropological existentialism rooted in the teachings of Levinas (transcendence) and Sartre (the situation of humankind). The lectured proposes a philosophical, Semiotic and Anthropological vision on the relationship between “sign” and “existence” in relation to the “existential situation,” which precedes the formation of signs, the semiotic construction of the subject.
Roberto Mastroianni is a philosopher, curator and art critic and an independent researcher in semiotics, philosophical aesthetics and language philosophy at the University of Turin. He studied philosophy with Gianni Vattimo and Roberto Salizzoni at the University of Turin where he received his Ph.D. in Language Philosophy and Communication Studies under the supervision of Ugo Volli. He works on language philosophy, philosophical aesthetics, semiotics, general theory of politics and communications. He curated and published books, essays and articles on philosophy, art, communication and politics. He curated several contemporary art exhibitions in museums and lectured in several universities in Italy and abroad.