" the greatest contribution to [semiotics] since the pioneering work of C. S. Peirce and Charles Morris." -Journal of A Theory of Semiotics. UMBERTO ECO . Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader (Bloomington: Indiana University. Press, 1 ), p. In the course of this book, I use (as I did in A Theory of Semiotics). Provides a theory of codes and a theory of sign production and discusses communication and signification.
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Read "A Theory of Semiotics" by Umberto Eco available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. " the greatest contribution to. by these graphs and beguiled by these statis- tics, viewers are lulled into equating delight in new information with aesthetic pleasure. Only a few recognize that. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a.
Speech-act theory proves helpful here, especially in its understanding of illocutionary intent. Thompson Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , Hirsch Jr. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in this Text? Specifically, this definition of meaning is too narrow in some instances and is simply not the case in other instances. For example, there are times when a text, whether spoken or written, does not mean what an author intends for it to mean.
This is not what her statement means regardless of what she intended. Perhaps a staircase has collapsed on her and she is suffocating. Though this is not what the author intended, or meant, this is what the sentence means. Though authors do have intentions in what they say and write, the meaning of what they say is not always synonymous with what they intend.
Authors must submit to the cultural units ascribed to signs and grammar if they wish to communicate meaningfully. The latter seems to be the case. The meaning is found in what is said, not in what is intended. In other words, illocutionary intent depends on the locutionary content. Friend A does not intend to warn friend B of the consequences of sticking her hand in the fire; rather, she intends merely to comment on the high temperature of the flames. According to this theory, readers are the agents that provide texts with their meaning.
When a person reads a text, she imports what her culture has taught her the signs that comprise the text mean into said signs. The implication of this theory is that the meaning of a text is not static but ever changing.
This is not to say that texts mean whatever a reader wants to make them mean. There are some problems with this theory as well. This theory of meaning held by radical reader-response critics seems to deny that a text is discourse fixed in writing, which would imply that a written text is not a communicative act.
If two persons are engaged in conversation and a speaker states a proposition, the hearer is not the one who determines the meaning of the proposition. Granted, when reading a text, one does not always have the luxury of asking the author what she might have meant by a certain word or statement.
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Yet this does not change the fact that a text is still discourse fixed in writing. Authors do intend things with texts, though they are not always in control of how readers interpret those texts. The author does provide one aspect of meaning in a text, but readers also play a part as well. As one can see, there are issues with both theories of meaning provided in the above analysis. Meaning cannot be solely determined by authors, nor can it be solely determined by readers.
This seems to be the case especially for those who desire to practice a theological interpretation of Scripture. Did Paul intend to communicate Nicene Christology when discussing the divinity of Jesus?
A historical-critical exegesis that would seek to recover the immediate intentions of Paul would most likely conclude in the negative. If one seeks to practice a TIS, can she do so with a hermeneutic that limits the meaning of texts in such a way? As shown above, both authors and reading communities seem to have some part to play in the meaning of a text.
A theory of meaning that is adequate for theological hermeneutics must take into consideration issues of authorial intention and reader significance. Therefore each of these processes would seem to be permitted by an underlying system of significations. When — on the basis of an underlying rule — something actually presented to the perception of the addressee stands for something else, there is signification.
On the contrary except for stimulation processes every act of communication to or between human beings — or any other intelligent biological or mechanical apparatus — presupposes a signification system as its necessary condition.
Eco provides his understanding of meaning in his chapter where he develops his theory of codes. Eco uses the example of a water-gate system to show his understanding of denotation and connotation. This example uses an engineer as the destination apparatus. Here he draws from what Louis Hjelmslev calls a connotative semiotics.
As a sign, AB stands for the water having reached the danger level. This is the denotation of AB. A denotation is the immediate content of an expression. The appropriate response for the engineer to have after receiving the expression AB would be to evacuate water. This is what Eco calls the connotation of AB. What constitutes a connotation as such is the connotative code which establishes it; the characteristic of a connotative code is the fact that the further signification conventionally relies on a primary one the engineer knows he must evacuate the water because he knows that the water has reached the danger level.
Eco notes that, theoretically, someone could have instructed the engineer to evacuate water when he received the expression AB, thereby making the water evacuation the denotation of the code. But before this can be discussed, one must first understand how Eco himself defines meaning. From a semiotic point of view it can only be a cultural unit. It may be a person, place, thing, feeling, state of affairs, sense of foreboding, fantasy, hallucination, hope or idea. Peirce referred to as the interpretants.
Interpretants are not the same thing as interpreters. The code is the sign-system, lattice, or network, in terms of which the linguistic choices which convey the message are expressed.
This understanding of meaning seems a possible solution to the problem of meaning posited above. Whereas understandings of meaning that overemphasize authorial intention or reader significance are too narrow, understanding meaning in the way that Eco does in his semiotics can provide a broad enough understanding to account for issues of both aforementioned theories. At one end of the type-token ratio abstraction versus concrete manifestation , we have ratio facilis where the expression's concrete manifestation matches its own expression type, following institutionalized conventions that are understandable if one knows the code , as in symptoms that may be recognized by "their conformity to a type" translation of Eco, : At the other end of the range we have ratio difficilis where "the expression type matches the content type" : , as in an arrow using a motivated link to signify "go straight" in various situations.
Even out of context, however, the arrow is still toposensitive , The type of continuum to be shaped motivated heteromaterial, homomaterial, arbitrary heteromaterial. The mode and complexity of articulation, which ranges from systems with strongly coded units to those in which the units are difficult to identify translation of Eco, , This chapter will be limited to a discussion of points 1and 2; the last two will not be addressed here due to their highly specific nature.
In Eco's typology, however, they are not. These names were given for practical simplification. These are truly sign-functions, not "signs". A sender not necessarily a person; it may simply be nature, a traffic sign, etc. The addressee is some sort of interpreter who uses his knowledge of the same code to discern the meaning of the message.
Indeed, even natural signs are codified, as shown in the classification of signs. Imprints are not signs, but rather elements to be integrated as part of a semiotic function.
The track may be interpreted by its distinctness: Depending on the temperature, an indistinct track may signify that a man walked by not very recently, or it may indicate his direction a vector ; a person walking backwards can thereby mislead others as to his starting point and destination. For example, red spots on someone's face can be a symptom of either measles or a high fever.
They are not produced intentionally. For example, smoke is a symptom used to identify the presence of a fire. We can also suppose that the new addressee did not know of any friend eager to cultivate him and to send him figs. Would it still be possible to decide what the letter was speaking about?
I think that we are still entitled to suppose that the reaction of the new addressee would have been, more or less, of this sort: "Somebody, God knows who, sent me a quantity of figs which is less than the one mentioned by the accompanying letter.
I wish also to suggest that, reading the letter, and before questioning the existence of the sender, the addressee was in the first instance convinced that a given Figs Sender was in question. Let us suppose now narrative imagination has no limits , not only that the original messenger was killed, but also that his killers ate all the figs, destroyed the basket, put the letter into a bottle and threw it into the ocean, so that it was found seventy years or so after Wilkins by Robinson Crusoe.
No basket, no slave, no figs, only a letter. Notwithstanding this, I bet that the first reaction of Crusoe would have been: "Where are the figs? Where are those figs? Provided Crusoe understands English, the letter says that there are, or were, somewhere, 30 fruits so and so, at least in the mind or in the Possible Doxastic World of a supposed sender or utterer of that message. And even if Crusoe decides that these scratches on a piece of paper are the accidental result of a chemical erosion, he faces only two possibilities: either to disregard them as an insignificant material event or to interpret them as if they were the words of an English text.
Once having entertained the second hypothesis, Robinson is obliged to conclude that the letter speaks of figsnot of apples or of unicorns. Now, let us suppose that the message in the bottle is found by a more sophisticated student in linguistics, hermeneutics, or semiotics. As smart as he or she is, such a new accidental addressee can make lots of more elaborate hypotheses, namely: 1.
The message is a coded one, where basket stands for "army," fig for "1, soldiers," and present for "help," so that the intended meaning of the letter is that the sender is sending an army of 30, soldiers for helping the addressee. But even in this case the mentioned and absent soldiers should be 30,, not, say, unless in the private code of the sender one fig stands for six soldiers. Figs can be intended at least today in a rhetorical sense as in such expressions as to be in good fig, to be in full fig, to be in poor fig , and the message could support a different interpretation.
The addressee, being a critic used to interpreting medieval texts, supposes that the message in the bottle is an allegory, written by a poet: the addressee smells in that message a hidden, second sense based on a private poetic code, holding only for that text.
Figs can be a synecdoche for ''fruits," fruits can be a metaphor for "positive astral influences," positive astral influences can be an allegory for "Divine Grace," and so on and so forth. In this case the addressee could make various conflicting hypotheses, but I strongly believe that there are certain "economical" criteria on the grounds of which certain hypotheses will be more interesting than others.
To validate his or her hypothesis, the addressee probably ought first to make certain conjectures about the possible sender and the possible historical period in which the text was produced.
This has nothing to do with researching the intentions of the sender, but it certainly has to do with researching the cultural framework of the original message.
Probably our sophisticated interpreter should decide that the text found in the bottle referred on a given occasion to some existing figs and was indexically pointing to a given sender as well as to a given addressee and a given slave, but that afterward it lost all referential power. The addressee can dream of those lost actors, so ambiguously involved in exchanging things or symbols perhaps to send figs meant, at a given historical moment, to make an uncanny innuendo , and could start from that anonymous message in order to try a variety of meanings and referents.
But the interpreter would not be entitled to say that the message can mean everything. It can mean many things, but there are senses that would be preposterous to suggest. I do not think that there can be somebody eager to say that it means that Napoleon died in May ; but to challenge such a farfetched reading can be a reasonable starting point for concluding that there is at least something which that message cannot positively say.
It says that once upon a time there was a basket full of figs. I admit that in order to make such a statement one must first of all assume that sentences can have a "literal meaning," and I know that such a point is controversial.
But I keep thinking that, within the boundaries of a given language, there is a literal meaning of lexical items and that it is the one listed first by dictionaries as well as the one that Everyman would first define when requested to say what a given word means. No reader-oriented theory can avoid such a constraint. Any act of freedom on the part of the reader can come after, not before, the acceptance of that constraint.
I understand that there is a difference between discussing the letter mentioned by Wilkins and discussing Finnegans Wake. I understand that the reading of Finnegans Wake can help us to cast doubt on even the supposed commonsensicality of Wilkins's example.
But we cannot disregard the point of view of the Slave who witnessed for the first time the miracle of Texts and of their interpretation. The essays collected here, except for three the analysis of Pliny's letter and the essays on drama and Pirandello, written at the end of the s , were published during the last five years.
All of them deal, from different points of view, with the problem of interpretation and its limits, or constraints. It is merely accidental, but by no means irrelevant, that they appear a little after the English translation of an old book of mine, Opera aperta, written between and now The Open Work [Cambridge: Harvard U. In that book I advocated the active role of the interpreter in the reading of texts endowed with aesthetic value.
A Theory of Semiotics
When those pages were written, my readers focused mainly on the "open" side of the whole business, underestimating the fact that the open-ended reading I supported was an activity elicited by and aiming at interpreting a work. In other words, I was studying the dialectics between the rights of texts and the rights of their interpreters. I have the impression that, in the course of the last few decades, the rights of the interpreters have been overstressed.
In the present essays I stress the limits of the act of interpretation. It is neither accidental nor irrelevant that these essays follow my previous writings A Theory of Semiotics, The Role of the Reader, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, all published by Indiana U. P in which I elaborated upon the Peircean idea of unlimited semiosis. I hope that the essays in this book especially the one on Peirce will make clear that the notion of unlimited semiosis does not lead to the conclusion that interpretation has no criteria.
To say that interpretation as the basic feature of semiosis is potentially unlimited does not mean that interpretation has no object and that it "riverruns" for the mere sake of itself.
To say that a text potentially has no end does not mean that every act of interpretation can have a happy ending.
Even the most radical deconstructionists accept the idea that there are interpretations which are blatantly unacceptable. This means that the interpreted text imposes some constraints upon its interpreters. Even in the case of self-voiding texts see the chapter "Small Worlds" we have semiosic objects which without any shade of doubt speak of their own impossibility. Let us be realistic: there is nothing more meaningful than a text which asserts that there is no meaning.
If there is something to be interpreted, the interpretation must speak of something which must be found somewhere, and in some way respected. Returning to Wilkins, in a world dominated by bermensch-Readers, let us first rank with the Slave. It is the only way to become, if not the Masters, at least the respectfully free Servants of Semiosis. Symbol and Allegory Some years ago I examined several senses of the word symbol Eco Among them was the well-known distinction between symbol and allegory drawn by Goethe: "Symbolism transforms the experience into an idea and an idea into an image, so that the idea expressed through the image remains always active and unattainable and, even though expressed in all languages, remains inexpressible.
Allegory transforms experience into a concept and a concept into an image, but so that the concept remains always defined and expressible by the image" Goethe Goethe's definition seems perfectly in tune with the one advocated by idealistic philosophy, for which symbols are signifiers that convey imprecise clouds or nebulae of meaning that they leave continually unexploited or unexploitable.
But we know that there is another sense of the word symbol. If we take it in the sense of logicians and mathematicians, then a symbol is either a signifier correlated to its meaning by a law, that is, by a precise convention, and as such interpretable by other signifiers, or a variable that can be bound in many ways but that, once it has acquired a given value, cannot represent other values within the same context.
If we take it in the sense of Hjelmslev , we find as instances of symbol the Cross, the Hammer and Sickle, emblems, and heraldic images. In this sense symbols are allegories. Originally a symbol was a token, the present half of a broken table or coin or medal, that performed its social and semiotic function by recalling the absent half to which it potentially could be reconnected. This potentiality was indeed crucial because, since the two halves could be reconnected, it was unnecessary to yearn for the reconnection.
So, too, it happens today that, when we enter a theater with our ticket stub, nobody tries to check where its other half is; everyone trusts the semiotic nature of the token, which in this case works on the basis of an established and recognized convention.
But the present half of the broken medal, evoking the ghost of its absent companion and of the original wholeness, encouraged other senses of "symbol. In this sense a symbol was an ominous sudden experience that announced vague consequences to be tentatively forecast. A symbol was a semeion, but one of an impalpable quality. It was a divine message, and when one speaks in tongues, everybody understands, but nobody can spell aloud what has been understood.
All the senses of "symbol" are thus equally archaic. When the supporters of the "romantic" sense try to trace its profoundly traditional origins, they look for an honorable pedigree but disregard the fact that the distinction between symbol and allegory is not archaic at all.
When in the Stoic milieu the first attempts were made to read the old poets allegorically, so as to find under the cloak of myth the evidence of natural truths, or when Philo of Alexandria started the allegorical reading of the Bible, there was no clear-cut distinction between symbol and allegory. Ppin and Auerbach say that the classical world took symbol and allegory as synonymous expressions and also called symbols certain coded images produced for educational purposes.
Under such a linguistic usage was the idea that symbols too were rhetorical devices endowed with a precise meaning, obscurely outlined, but to be precisely found. And the same happened with the tradition of the Church Fathers and medieval culture. How to speak of such nonentity and nonidentity if not by a language whose signs have no literal and univocal meaning but are "open" to contrasting interpretations?
Dionysius speaks, for his negative theology, of symbols that are not translatable allegories. From a Neoplatonic perspective, we must say of the source of the cosmic emanation something which is true and false at the same timesince such a Source is beyond any rational knowledge and, from our point of view, appears as mere Nothingness.
This contradictoriness of Neoplatonic symbols seems to share the ambiguity of the romantic symbol. Nevertheless, the Neoplatonism of Dionysiusand, furthermore, that of his commentators such as Aquinasis not a "strong" one: medieval Neoplatonist philosophers tried to translate the pantheistic idea of emanation into one of "participation.
Contradictoriness belongs to our discourses about Him and arises from our imperfect knowledge of Him. But the knowledge He has of Himself is totally unambiguous. This is a very important point because, as we shall see, the Hermetic Platonism of the Renaissance maintains that the very core of every secret knowledge is the faith in the deep contradictoriness of reality.
On the contrary, for medieval theology both contradictoriness and ambiguity are merely semiotic, not ontological. Naturally, since we must speak of the Unspeakable, we name it Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Light, Jealousy, and so on, but these terms, says Dionysius, can be applied to Him only "supersubstantially.
It is dangerous to name God Beauty or Light, because one can believe that such appellations convey some of His real qualities. We should apply to Him the most provocative adjectives so that it be clear that the similarity we are looking for escapes us or can only be glimpsed at the cost of a disproportioned proportion De coel.
The medieval metaphysical symbol is neither epiphany nor revelation of a truth concealed under the cloak of myth. Symbolism must make rationally conceivable the inadequacy of our reason and of our language.
Challenged by this difficulty, Dionysius's commentators tried to translate his approach into rational terms: when Scotus Erigena De divisione naturae 5. Aquinas will definitely transform this approach into the doctrine of analogia entis, which aimed at being a proportional calculus. Thus at the very root of medieval pansemiotic metaphysicswhich was sometimes defined as universal symbolismis the Quest for a Code and the will to transform a poetic approximation into a philosophical statement. Scriptural Interpretation Parallel to the Neoplatonic line of thought is the hermeneutic tradition of scriptural interpreters, interested in the symbolic language by which the Holy Scriptures speak to us.
The semiosic process involved in the reading of Scriptures was rather complicated: there was a first book speaking allegorically of the second one, and a second one speaking through parables of something else. Moreover, in this beautiful case of unlimited semiosis, there was a puzzling identification among the sender the divine Logos , the signifying message words, Logoi , the content the divine message, Logos , the referent Christ, the Logos a web of identities and differences, complicated by the fact that Christ, as Logos, insofar as he was the ensemble of all the divine archetypes, was fundamentally polysemous.
Thus both Testaments spoke at the same time of their sender, of their content, of their referent. Their meaning was the nebula of all possible archetypes. The Scriptures were in the position of saying everything, and everything was too much for interpreters interested in Truth see Compagnon and the discussion in Eco , ch.
The symbolic nature of the Holy Books thus had to be tamed; in order to do so, the symbolic mode had to be identified with the allegorical one.
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The Scriptures had potentially every possible meaning, but their reading had to be governed by a code, and that is why the Fathers proposed the theory of the allegorical senses. In the beginning the senses were three literal, moral, mystic or pneumatic ; then they became four literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.
The theory of the four senses provided a sort of guarantee for the correct decoding of the Books. The patristic and Scholastic mind could never avoid the feeling of inexhaustible profundity of the Scriptures, frequently compared to an infinita sensuum sylva Jerome Ep. Once again we feel here something which recalls the modern fascination of an open textual reading, and even the hermeneutic idea that a text magnetizes on it, so to speak, the whole of the readings it has elicited in the course of history Gadamer But the patristic and medieval problem was how to reconcile the infinity of interpretation with the univocality of the message.
The main question was how to read the Books by discovering in them, not new things, but the same everlasting truth rephrased in ever new ways: non nova sed nove. Scriptural hermeneutics provided the modern sensitivity with a model of "open" reading, but in its own terms escaped such a temptation.
This is why at that time symbol and allegory were indistinguishable from each other.
In order to consider them as two different procedures, Western civilization had to elaborate a different notion of truth. There is, however, a point where Christian tradition offered to modern symbolism an interpretive model. It was the way of deciding when, in a text, one can recognize an instance of symbolic mode. Augustine De Doctrina Christiana 3 was the first to put forth a list of rules for ascertaining whether and when a fact told by the Scriptures had to be taken, not literally, but figuratively.Jason Glynos.
The refusal of dualism, so that the very identity principle collapses, as well as the one of the excluded middle; as a consequence, tertium datur the idea of the coincidence of the opposites depends on this basic assumption.
Death and Desire RLE: There are as many codes linguistic and non-linguistic as there are activities and contexts. Worlds and Texts The double metaphor of the world as a text and a text as a world has a venerable history.
A marble bathtub from Italy encrusted with gold and mother-of-pearl is so strongly associated with wealth, prestige and luxury that its primary function as a tub in which to bathe is relegated to secondary status. Abstract Eco Because the field of semiotics covers quite a diversity of signs, Umberto Eco has developed a classification in which he distinguishes between artificial and natural signs.
In the beginning the senses were three literal, moral, mystic or pneumatic ; then they became four literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.