On fish and buttons: Semiotics and philosophy of language

On fish and buttons: Semiotics and philosophy of language UMBERTO ECO Semiotica published a report not long ago by Mary Douglas (1982), concerning the opportunity of establishing a new chair in Semiotics at Indiana University-Bloomington. This report was not a simple overview of the state of the art in a given university: it represented a 'universal' statement on the past, the present, and the future of semiotic studies. It was particularly interesting insofar as it came from an anthropologist who, throughout her work, has always paid attention to 'symbolic' phenomena and to the problem of signification in social life. Mary Douglas's report was severe and indulgent at the same time -- in both cases honest and perceptive. New disciplines, or at least new approaches to old and new problems, cannot be identified with the side-effects and with the fashions they inevitably produce. Thus Mary Douglas has indulgently confined to a tolerable periphery of the semiotic landscape all the 'recreational' games, abstruse and unnecessary pseudo-formalization, and irresponsible and second-hand deconstructions that the semiotic enterprise has encouraged. At the same time, she has acknowledged that the core of any responsible semiotic approach is 'the technical analysis of the structures in which meanings are produced' (1982: 198). I cannot but http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Semiotica - Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique de Gruyter

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 Walter de Gruyter
ISSN
0037-1998
eISSN
1613-3692
DOI
10.1515/semi.1984.48.1-2.97
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

UMBERTO ECO Semiotica published a report not long ago by Mary Douglas (1982), concerning the opportunity of establishing a new chair in Semiotics at Indiana University-Bloomington. This report was not a simple overview of the state of the art in a given university: it represented a 'universal' statement on the past, the present, and the future of semiotic studies. It was particularly interesting insofar as it came from an anthropologist who, throughout her work, has always paid attention to 'symbolic' phenomena and to the problem of signification in social life. Mary Douglas's report was severe and indulgent at the same time -- in both cases honest and perceptive. New disciplines, or at least new approaches to old and new problems, cannot be identified with the side-effects and with the fashions they inevitably produce. Thus Mary Douglas has indulgently confined to a tolerable periphery of the semiotic landscape all the 'recreational' games, abstruse and unnecessary pseudo-formalization, and irresponsible and second-hand deconstructions that the semiotic enterprise has encouraged. At the same time, she has acknowledged that the core of any responsible semiotic approach is 'the technical analysis of the structures in which meanings are produced' (1982: 198). I cannot but

Journal

Semiotica - Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotiquede Gruyter

Published: Jan 1, 1984

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