The Semioethics Interviews III: John Deely: Human Understanding in the Age of Global Awareness
Authors: (Morten Tønnessen, Department of Semiotics, Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu, Estonia, and others)
Abstract: The general topic of this contribution is semioethics, widely regarded as one of the most significant developments in semiotics after the turn of the 21st century, and along with the existential semiotics of Eero Tarasti (2000) a sign of an ethical turn within semiotics. The term semioethics, which signifies not least the emergence of a sense of global responsibility, was introduced by Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio in 2003, and Petrilli in particular is associated with this emerging scholarly field. The semioethics interviews, conducted by Norwegian-born Tartu semiotician Morten Tønnessen, starts out (in four separate interview articles) with Professor John Deely, a prominent American scholar known among other works for The Four Ages of Understanding: The first Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Turn of the 20th Century (Deely 2001a). Deely, a semiotician as well as a philosopher, has joined Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio in their endeavour by grounding the notion of semioethics in philosophical terms. Topics include the responsibility of humankind, individuals and governments, the place of culture as part of and yet distinct from nature, the semiotic side of modern economic and technological development, the future prospects of human understanding and morality in the light of current economic and political developments, and philosophy – the distinction between ontology and epistemology, and the terminology of rights, ncluded – reviewed in terms of (Peircean) semiotics. In the course of the interview, Deely relates not only to Peirce but further to Petrilli, to Thomas Sebeok, to the biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) and to phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. The human condition is examined time over again, drawing on a rich reference material from philosophy as well as from various sciences and scholarly disciplines.