Basics of Semiotics [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 44 (4):836-837 (1991)
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John Deely's new introduction to semiotics deserves the attention of philosophers because of his ambitious attempt to ground semiotics in a general philosophical framework rather than in linguistics or literary theory. By uniting the signs of brute animal communication, the signs of language, and the perceptual signs of cognition within a single framework of the logic of relations, Deely has rightly grounded semiotics in logic and epistemology rather than in the theory of language. Language is but one sign system, and must not be regarded as the paradigm for semiotics; yet this fallacy of pars pro toto is all but universal, not only in the sémiologie of French structuralism, but also in recent Anglo-American analytic philosophy, as evident in D. S. Clarke's Principles of Semiotic. Deely's semiotic maxim, by contrast, is suitably general: "There is nothing in thought or in sensation which is not first possessed in a sign". According to Deely, semiotics brings all of cognition and communication, from the simplest organisms to human beings, into a single point of view.



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