Semiosis and ‘meaning as use’: The indispensability and insufficiency of subjectivity in the action of signs

John Deely


Thematic development of semiotics proves to be a transformative event for intellectual culture, manifesting itself to begin with in its reshaping of the usage of many philosophical terms in their reflection of mainstream modern philosophy as its influence has sedimented down the level of ordinary language, i.e., today’s common speech. Central among these terms are subject and object as modern usage has established their sense, a sense which proves incompatible with the understanding of things that is emerging from the cenoscopic analysis of the being and action of signs. In particular also the term ‘relation’, surely among the most widely used and least analysed terms of philosophy today, proves upon semiotic analysis to require a whole new understanding of the subjectivity/objectivity and object/thing distinctions as they have come to be more or less “settled” in modern usage. This essay explores the implications for such usage consequent upon the postmodern development of semiotics as the “doctrine” or “cenoscopic science” of signs.


alloanimal; animal; concepts; feelings; ideas; intersubjective; objects; public; purely objective; relation; semiotic animal; suprasubjective; things

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SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia