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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Onderzoeksprojecten Semiotic evolution and cultural dynamics

Workshop 1 - Aarhus, 2005

Indexicality revisited ( Aarhus , oktober 2005)

Theoretical culture seems to be directly dependent on the use of visual signs, as g raphic representations allowed humans to study structures. But how do structures relate to indices? Is a sense of the indexical a prerequisite for the discovery of structure? Could structures be the semiotic counterpart of a pre-semiotic indexicality? It would seem that in the evolution of theoretical culture, the indexical (or indexicality) must have played a major role.

With the discovery of structure, the adventure of the search for necessity, identity, for the absolute – of mathematics, philosophy and science – begins. The sign now becomes a three-place entity, consisting of a visible sign (a representamen), a concept (the interpretant), and a reality that lies behind, but determines, appearances (the object or referent). Language itself changes: from a stream of sounds in time, it becomes a ‘thing’ with a stable structure, or grammar. Written language is the language of logic and argument, the language of reasoning and not of dialogue and contest.

As structures offer a much stronger base for comparison than appearances or values (meanings), its discovery allowed for an enormous increase in analogical thinking. It could thus account for the sudden increase in human creativity – artistic, technological, and social – around 50-30.000 years B.P. At the same time, however, structures allow for stable and reliable knowledge. The discovery of stable structures probably made the process of mapping (or “blending”) relatively easy. The relating of different and varied cognitive domains requires a powerful tertium comparationis – which is precisely what theoretical thinking provided humans with.

The difference separating appearance from an underlying structural reality also creates new modalities for social interaction: the discovery that the other is in certain structural respects identical to myself provides the basis for universalism, and for a theory of mind. Whereas previously the other was considered as identical or other on the basis of appearances or on the basis of conceptual meaning (attributed once again to differences in appearance), now a new basis for inter-human relations is discovered: a universal human structure or identity. The indexical dimension of the semiotic is the dimension of logical necessity: the dimension of what remains identical, independently of what we perceive or do. Once this identity is separated from the rest of the semiotic, the semiotic bandwidth of humans changes significantly: a new dimension is added, and all the existing relationships are redrawn. The status of both images and concepts changes too: images become appearances, concepts become meanings (ideas, ideologies).

Laatst gewijzigd:31 mei 2017 13:17