Beyond Signification: The Co-Evolution of Subject and Semiosis
Authors: (Tahir Wood, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa)
Abstract: The paper will start from the assumption that semiotics today has advanced well beyond the early insights of Peirce and Saussure, both of whom looked at signs rather atomistically and in a decontextualised manner. Furthermore these thinkers tended to view the icon, index and symbol as different kinds of signs. Such views are untenable today. Firstly, it needs to be shown what the nature of contextualisation entails, as a shift from signification to cognitive semiosis. This implies both intertextuality and intersubjectivity as a result both of the evolution of the species and the further evolution of its culture. Highly evolved culture is made up of a complex of implicit and explicit intertextual relations, resulting in increasing levels of abstraction that demand concretisation through the hermeneutic activity of a constantly transforming subjectivity. This needs to be theorised so as to show up the nature of the symbolic order, which nevertheless incorporates the iconic and indexical within itself. This incorporation means that the iconic-indexical dynamics of zoosemiotics retain a presence within symbolic human semiosis. It will be shown that this insight is prefigured as the ‗animal kingdom of the spirit‘ in Hegel‘s Phenomenology and that this raises the possibility of a more fully realised symbolic realm in the further evolution of culture. This possibility flows from the fact that human subjectivity may be expanded to a greater consciousness of the iconic-indexical animality that is embedded in the symbolic order. This cannot mean an evasion of the iconic-indexical realm but a greater awareness of it to be achieved through powers of reflectivity.