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Sufficient semiosis

Ruthrof, Horst (2015) Sufficient semiosis. The American Journal of Semiotics, 31 (1). pp. 117-146.

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The paper argues for sufficient semiosis as a comprehensive set of constraints within which language functions. As a generalisation of Leibniz’s sufficient reason, sufficient semiosis replaces truth-conditional semantics. The paper opens with a series of ontological commitments about language, that sentence-types have only token potential, sentence-tokens have no more than meaning potential, and that only utterances can have meaning. This is so, the paper claims, because natural language always requires two fundamental ingredients to operate: aboutness and its modification by voice. Sufficient semiosis is then elaborated as a set of social constraints at all levels, phonetic, syntactic, lexical, and discursive, in both habitual and interpretive use. In contrast, truth-conditional semantics can be shown to be parasitic on meaning construction via hypoiconic, diagrammatical schematizations and so rests on a not so well-disguised petitio principii. Peirce’s hypoiconic interpretant is also employed in arguing that semantic identity and ideality are unwarranted imports into the analysis of language. Instead, the paper foregrounds intersubjective mentalism as an inevitable consequence of a Peircean approach to language. In conclusion, the paper rejects the popular idea that language is a symbolic system in favour of a heterosemiotic explanation.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Philosophy Document Center
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