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Deely. Basics of Semiotics

Deely. Basics of Semiotics

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BASICS OF SEMIOTICS
First Edition, 1990available in print.
By John Deely
 John Deelyis Professor of philosophy at the Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas (Houston), and author of numerous works onphilosophy and semiotics, most recently The Impact on Philosophy of Semiotics(St. Augustine's Press), The Four Ages of Understanding (Toronto), and WhatDistinguishes Human Understanding (St Augustine's Press)."Deely's book, the only successful modern English introduction to semiotics, is aclear, creative, and provocative synthesis of major trends, past and present" --Thomas A Sebeok, Indiana University (1990)Notwithstanding books of similar title, this is in fact the only book that traces thesubject matter of semiotics, namely, 'semiosis' or the action of signs, to the fullextent that Peirce proposed and Poinsot portended. Thus, Deely traces thesubject matter of semiotics not only in the cultural realm of human activities, asdid semiologists or as in Chandler's work, but in the realm of living thingsgenerally, both plant and animal (what Sebeok, and after him Hoffmeyer andKull, termed "biosemiosis"), and also in the realm of inorganic nature and theprocesses by which the universe gradually transformed itself from a lifelesswhole into a universe capable of supporting life. This is the reason Beuchotnoted that 'no other author paints on a canvas so broad', but it is also thereason why this is the only book that currently justifies the claim to outline thebasics of semiotics, rather than simply of some particular realm of inquiry withinsemiotics as a whole.The last half century has produced an increasing interest in semiotics, the studyof signs. As an interdisciplinary field, moreover, semiotics has produced a vastliterature from many different points of view. As the discourse has expanded,clear definitions and goals become more elusive. Semioticians still lack a unifiedtheory of the purposes of semoitocs as a discipline as well as a comprehensiverationale for the linking of semiosis at the levels of culture, society, and nature.As Deely suggests in his preface, the image of the modern semiotic universe isthe same as that of astronomy in 1611 as suggested by John Donne: "Tis all inpieces, all coherence gone: / All just supply, and all Relation."
 
This short, cogent, philosophically oriented book outlines and analyzes thebasic concepts of semiotics in a coherent, overall framework.
Contents:
 Preface to the First Edition Thematic Epigraphs Ch-1Literary Semiotics and the Doctrine of SignsCh-2Semiotics: Method or Point of View?Ch-3Semiotics:The Subject Matter of Semiotic InquiryCh-4Signs: The Medium of SemiosisCh-5Zoosemiotics and AnthroposemioticsA.The Content of ExperienceB.Species-Specific Objective WorldsC.Species-Specifically Human SemiosisD. 
Conventionality of Signs in Anthroposemeosis
 E.Criticism as the Exploration of TextualityF.A Matrix for All the SciencesG.A Model for Discourse as SemiosisH.SummationPhysiosemiosis and Phytosemiosis Retrospect: History and Theory in Semiotics A.Theory of SemioticsB.History of Semiotics1.The Ancient World and Augustine2The Latin World3The Iberian Connection4The Place of John Locke5Saussure, Peirce, and Poinsot6Jakob von UexkullReferences 
Preface
The last half-century or so has witnessed an increasing interest in semioticinquiry, with a concomitant scholarly production around the world of books, journals, and articles devoted to the endless facets of the subject. The image of astronomy in 1611 conveyed by John Donne has been suggested as the imageof the modern semiotic universe: "Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone; / All justsupply, and all Relation".For conspicuously absent in the burgeoning semiotic literature has been aunified treatise laying out the basics behind the very idea of semiotic inquiry ingeneral, a treatise providing a map of semiosis as an integral phenomenon (it
 
being understood that semiosis is but the name for the action of signs, whichprovides the common subject matter for the whole range of inquiries covered bythe umbrella term "semiotics"). This book is a remedy for that absence, a firstapproximation to a comprehensive rationale for the linking of semiosis at thelevels of culture, society, and nature organic and inorganic.I have tried to have a fair regard for contemporary and historical scholarship,but nothing has been included here just for the sake of being included. I havenot followed the practice of allowing the sociological prestige attained by theapplication of special methods within semiotics, or by celebrated idiosyncraticpreoccupations of individual authors, to enter eo ipso into the account. I havetried to allow the requirements of the subject matter to dictate the references atevery point. So if there are some strange omissions, as may seem, the reader isasked first to entertain the hypothesis that the omissions are due less toignorance than to the objective of answering the question of what is really basicin the outline of this subject matter. There can be disagreement over basics,but, for the disagreement to be fruitful, someone has first to make a stab atsaying what the basics are. Here is my guess at the riddle of how all being"pieces" and "relation" can yet supply a coherence of substance.The aim of the book, then, is to fill the need for an answer to the question of justwhat is the essential nature and what are the fundamental varieties of possiblesemiosis. The substance of the answer to this twofold question is contained inchapters 3 through 6. Corresponding to this answer is the answer in chapter 2to the prior question of what semiotics itselfµ the knowledge corresponding tothe subject matterµ basically is. And bracketing this whole discussion by way of opening and closing is a kind of sociological look at semiotics today in chapter 1, balanced by a historical look at semiotics in retrospect and prospect inchapter 7.This is a book I have long wanted to write and one that has, for even longer,needed to be written; but, at least for this author, only recently have theessential insight and opportunity come together for expressing in a coherentoverall framework the basic concepts of semiotics. I believe the book effectivelydemonstrates the thesis Sebeok advanced in his 1975 "Chronicle of Prejudices"(156):Movement towards the definition of semiotic thinking in thebiological and anthropological [and, I would add, physicalenvironmental] framework of a theory of evolution represents . . .the only genuinely novel and significantly wholistic trend in the20th century development in this field.The twenty-first century, I hope, will bear this out, and we will see an end to the"sad fact" recorded by Sebeok more recently (1989b: 82)that "the contemporaryteaching of semiotics is severely, perhaps cripplingly, impoverished" by "theutter, frightening innocence of most practitioners of semiotics about the naturalorder in which they and it are embedded." Semiotics indeed "will surely shrivel

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