Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design
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'To be means to communicate'
Paul Cobley
London Metropolitan University

[E]ns et verum convertuntur, "communication and being are coextensive". To be for nature is to be intelligible for the animal whose being is to understand (Deely 2003: 39)

La questione dell'io é inevitabilmente connessa con quella dell'altro (Ponzio 2001: 137)

The main idea underpinning the position outlined in this paper is a very common one. In fact, it is also quite old. Put simply, it is the notion that structure facilitates. This basic formula could also be said to characterize the central insight of that enduring pre-Socratic practice, semiotics. Without wishing to reduce semiotics to a mere definition, nor to posit it as some kind of master discipline, it can still be stated that semiotics is where "the 'life sciences' and the 'sign sciences' converge. This means that signs and life converge. Therefore, it follows that the human being is a sign in a universe of signs" (Petrilli and Ponzio 2001: 5). This paper, then, attempts to sketch a picture of the human as a sign. In doing so, it also attempts to negotiate an understanding of the human as constituted by 'selfhood' on the one hand and by what has become known as 'subjectivity', on the other. In effect, Thomas A. Sebeok nicely sums up the fecundity of the 'structure facilitates' idea in this sphere when he writes that "Semiosis is the processual engine which propels organisms to capture 'external reality' and thereby come to terms with the cosmos in the shape of species-specific internal modeling systems" (Sebeok 2001: 15). The following paper, of course, is in no way equipped to resolve the nature/nurture, biology/culture or, also, the structure/agency debates. However, it attempts to provide one way of approaching such dichotomies through the investigation of semiosis. [Read more]