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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2010, Issue 179 (Jan 2010)


After Deely: If I walk the “way of signs,” where am I going?

Mary Catherine Sommers
Published Online: 2010-04-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2010.022


Deely has written a whole history of philosophy from the point of view of the presence and absence of sign, taking its point of departure from Augustine's late-fourth to early-fifth century inquiry into the “the words of scripture and the sacraments of the Church.” Yet Deely only mentions “sacrament” six times (never after the Latin Age). The “Scriptures,” indeed, receive twenty-eight references. However, in the only five occurrences in the text after the Latin Age, four of them involve the use of Scripture in ignominious opposition to heliocentrism and evolution. “Sacrament” and “Scriptures,” it seems, having served their purpose in birthing the notion of sign, are — like midwives — paid off and sent away. However, the fifth occurrence of “Scriptures” beyond the Latin Age suggests that this is premature, and, indeed, that Deely knows it. The notion of sign, born from the need for the exegesis of sacred texts, disappears, as Deely notes, with “the abandonment of the textual exegeses of scholasticism,” which “opened the floodgates for” what Peirce calls “a tidal wave of nominalism.” Another recent and more modest “history of philosophy,” whose author is also accounting for the “death of the sign” in modernity and post modernity, is Catherine Pickstock's After writing. Pickstock attempts to “trace the emergence of the unliturgical world,” which is the “necropolis” of contemporary society, and to counterpoise “the liturgical lineaments of a sacred polis,” which is “avowedly semiotic.” For Pickstock, like Deely, the task is to show a Latin solution to a problem she finds foreshadowed in the sophists, but a problem constituted for us by moderns like Descartes. It is reasonable to ask if, for Deely as well, semiotics points towards a liturgical consummation.

About the article

Published Online: 2010-04-21

Published in Print: 2010-04-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2010.022. Export Citation

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