The Challenge of Existential Semiotics
Existential semiotics tries to be a new epistemic theory of sign studies. In fact, it would consist reading the classical semiotics in the light of the continental philosophy in the line of Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel and others. What is involved is simply to scrutinize the life of the signs as it were from within, inside; thus existential approach is not a reductionist one but foregrounds the phenomenal qualities of its object. It also means a revalorisation of the notion of subject. Moreover it starts from the idea of temporality, constant flux of events and logic of change. Its main concepts focus around categories of Dasein and transcendence. Entirely new sign classes emerge from their interaction. Yet, many concepts of classical semiotics, remain also valid, like modalities. The idea of transcendence, howere, lead perhaps to most radical renewals of earlier semiotics. As to the Dasein it launches a new theory of the human mind consisting of principles of Moi and Soi and thereafter four modes of being: body, person, social practice and values. These modes form the so-called Z model or ‘zemic’ aspect of sign processes.
The first ideas of existential semiotics appeared fifteen years ago in the study Existential Semiotics (Tarasti, Bloomington, IU Press 2000). Later a more complete form of the theory appeared in Italian, French, Bulgarian and Chinese (Foundations of Existential semiotics). A new elaboration of it is forthcoming entitled Sein und Schein, New Explorations of Existential Semiotics (New York: Mouton 2015). In its latest developments the theory is expanding to sociology and cultural studies leading to critical reevaluations of some of their central issues (transculturality, language, articulation, subject position , action, cultivation (Bildung), organism, generation, rhizome, transfer. On the other hand, the notion of transcendence is pondered and allowed to lead into new issues in the theory of subjectivity.