Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 1 of 22)

0001 The full title of Deely’s book is Semiotic Animal: A Postmodern Definition of “Human Being” Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism: to supersede the ancient and medieval ‘animal rationale’ along with the modern ‘res cogitans’.  The book is published in 2010 by St. Augustine’s Press in South Bend, Indiana.

John Deely (1942-2017 AD) starts as a Thomist interested in Heidegger and becomes a semiotician.  He becomes a really, really good promoter of the study of signs.  He writes a history of philosophy from the point of view of the revelation… or, is it discovery?.. that the sign is a triadic relation. For years, he teaches at University of Saint Thomas, Houston.  He retires, moves to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, home of St. Vincent’s College, then dies.

This examination is to be read in parallel with or after reading (and writing marginalia) in Deely’s book.  My argument may run like a dog on a long leash, compared to Deely’s argument.  But, there is reason for the analogy.  Thirteen years have passed since publication and five years since Deely’s burial, and the Age of Triadic Relations continues to manifest.

Semiotics is the study of signs.  A sign is a triadic relation.

0002 Chapter one considers a question that we ask ourselves.

Humans, what type of animals are they?

Chapter two addresses the answer.

0003 Modern philosophy starts (more or less) when Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) presents a sensation, as an idea and an image where the object of experience directs a construct of the mind.  Consequently, he regards humans as thinking things… or the owners of thinking things (minds)… or something like that.

In terms of Peirce’s philosophy, there are two contiguous actualities, characteristic of the category of secondness.  They are an object of experience and a construct of the mind.  The contiguity (which, for nomenclature, is placed in brackets) is “directs”.

Here is a picture of Descartes’ dyadic actuality.  In Latin, the title is “res cogitans“.

Figure 01

0005 As already noted, this hylomorphic structure is coherent with Peirce’s category of secondness.  The actuality corresponds to a sensation. Sensation exhibits a dyadic character.  Sensation is like cause [and] effect or matter [substantiating] form.

There is an implicit claim that this dyad describes the way humans think.

Plus, a superior claim (not realized until Charles Peirce (1839-1914 AD) wrote about it) may be asserted.  Humans think in terms of triadic relations, such a signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.

Say what?

See A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 With the superior claim in mind, it is no surprise that when later philosophers build epistemologies upon Descartes’ foundation, they end up shifting Descartes’ terms out of secondness, the realm of actuality, and into thirdness, the realm of normal contexts, and firstness, the realm of possibility.  

Here is a category-based nested form that sort of captures Kant’s epistemology.

Figure 02

The normal context of the mind3 brings the actuality of an object of experience2 into relation with the potential of a particular condition1. What is that condition? The thing itself [cannot be objectified as] what one sees, hears, smells, tastes or touches.

0007 So, the experience of the five senses2 becomes an object2 as it simultaneously is contextualized by the mind3 and arises from the potential of a particular condition1.  Plus, the particular condition1 is that the object of experience cannot be the thing itself1.

It sort of like saying that my image in a mirror is not me, even though I appear to be the object of experience.

0008 Welcome to modern… philosophy?… er… science?

The Positivist’s judgment formalizes the quasi-Kantian category-based nested form by thirdly, replacing the mind3 with a positivist intellect3.  The positivist intellect3 rules out metaphysics.  Secondly, the object of experience2 is replaced by an empirio-schematic judgment2, where disciplinary language (relation) brings observations and measurements of phenomena (what is) into relation with mathematical or mechanical models (what ought to be).  Firstly, the thing itselfand what one senses1 are replaced by Latin terms, the noumenon and its phenomena1.

Here is a diagram of the Positivist’s judgment as a category-based nested form.

Figure 03

0009 The implications of the conversion of Descartes’ dyadic formula for sensation to a modern quasi-Kantian nested form for how humans think are most curious.

It seems that the construct of the mind weaves a normal context3 and potential1, sort of like a spider spinning a web in the hope of catching a flying insect.  The metaphorical flying insect, is an experience2 that immediately becomes an object2as the manifestation of the realness of the normal context3 and potential1.  Plus, the object2 is inside of the observer and the thing itself1 remains (potentially) on the outside.

Similarly, for the Positivist’s judgment, the scientist weaves the normal context of the positivist intellect3 with the potential that phenomena1 may be the observable and measurable facets of a noumenon1, then waits for observations and measurements (what is) to reveal patterns that can be modeled (what ought to be) and discussed with disciplinary precision (relation between what is and what ought to be)2.  One of the oldest adages in science says, “First, observe phenomena.  Second, explain them.”

0010 What a curious implication.

It is almost as if the construct of the mind is looking for an actuality2 that fits its ideals.  And when it does, it transforms whatever enters the realm of actuality, such as an experience2 or a measurement2, into an object2 or an empirio-schematic judgment2.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 2 of 22)

0011 Idealism looks for something2 that it can turn into an object2 or an empirio-schematic judgment2.

What about realism?

0012 In Aristotle’s hylomorphe, matter and form are real elements and the contiguity is called “substance” (a technical use that may or may not cohere with traditional definitions of the word).  Here is a picture.

Figure 04

0013 I suppose Aristotle’s philosophy is realist.

So, let me see what happens to the hylomorphe when it is tossed into an appropriate category-based nested form.

Figure 05

Okay.  That is a little disappointing.  I thought I would have arrows going in every direction, as in the first blog.

0014 Let me try another.  “Stipulation” is a spoken word.  How does the spoken word, “stipulation” pan out as an actuality, according to Razie Mah in How To Define The Word “Religion”?

Figure 06

Another disappointment with realism.

0015 Well, what if I go one step further and remind myself that, according the linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913 AD), spoken language consists of two arbitrarily related systems of differences, parole and langue.  Parole is “talk”.  Langue is “language” (or whatever is going on in one’s head during conversation).

According to Saussure, for spoken words, parole [stipulates] langue2.  

Now, I have another example of the idealist approach, with a parallel to modern epistemology.

Figure 07

Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 3 of 22)

0016 In chapter two, modern philosophy takes flight toward its twilight and, in chapter three, we enter the dawn of a new understanding of human beings.

0017 Two independent lines of thought develop in Europe and in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The lines seem a little crossed.  On the American side, Charles Peirce reproduces the Baroque scholastic definition of the sign as a triadic relation.  Yes, Baroque scholasticism sounds like Europe.  On the European side, Ferdinand de Saussure recognizes that his novel model of language occasions an inquiry into sign-causality.  To me, this sounds quite American.  Language is a sign-machine, consisting of two arbitrarily related systems of differences.

0018 Consider a map of Pennsylvania.  This map is an example of a nonarbitrary or a motivated or a systematically related system of differences.  The roads on the map are signifiers.  The actual roads are the signified.

0019 Consider spoken languages.  Talk (in French, parole) consists in one system of differences.  Each uttered word is distinct from all other words.  Another term for a finite set of differences is a symbolic order.  What goes on in one’s head while talking (in French, langue) consists in the other set of differences.  According to Saussure, the relation between parole and langue is arbitrary.  Or, one can say, parole [stipulates] langue, where the contiguity, “stipulation”, is arbitrary.

0020 Note how I can depict these examples as hylomorphes.

A map [ overlays ] a landscape.

Parole [stipulates ] langue.

Plus, the latter dyad captures the flavor of Descartes’ original hylomorphe describing humans as thinking things.

Figure 08

0021 Saussure’s hylomorphe is versatile, because parole and langue can serve as bread for a sandwich filled with expansions of the contiguity, [stipulates].   The terms, signifier and signified, to an Aristotelian, are a little misleading, because the signified is typically “out there” (like a landscape) and the signifier is typically “ready to hand” (like a map).  But, the signified is simultaneously “in here”, because all one has to do is look to see the road that corresponds to a line on the map.  Even more “in here” are images of the road conjured when looking at a map while planning a trip at home.  No wonder Saussureans elevate the mental image of the road (“in here”) and ignore the road itself (“out there”).

Another pairing is acoustic signal (signifier) and neural signal (signified), the stuff of cognitive psychology.  These are a few of the obvious pairings that can expand the contiguity between parole and langue.

Figure 09

Imagine how many academic works can be formulated based on an ever-expanding “stipulation”.  Every researcher can discover or further develop one layer within the center of the intellectual sandwich.

0022 Yet, none of these sandwiches are satisfying, in the human sense of the word, because (if humans are semiotic animals, then) humans think in terms of signs… er… triadic relations.

0023 In order to understand an actuality2, the human conjures (if that is the proper word for it) a normal context3 and its potential1.  This is apparent for Aristotle’s rational inquiry.  A thing is an actuality2.  Actuality2 belongs to secondness.  Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements. So, the actuality2 becomes matter [contiguity] form2 as the normal context3 (of rational inquiry3) and its potential1 (of Aristotle’s four causes and similar schema1) are conjured.

Check points 0014 and 0015 for that one.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 4 of 22)

0024 What is odd about Saussure’s semiological and Decartes’ thinking-thing formulations is that the apparent dyadic actuality unwinds into something actual2 (parole2) as well as something that empowers an understanding of something actual3((1)), the normal context of langue3 and the potential that a signified [cannot be objectified as] its signifier1.

Figure 10

0025 This unwinding produces a nested form where someone saying something becomes Saussure’s parole2, in the normal context of langue3 (what is going on in one’s mind) with its potential that the signified [cannot be objectified as] the signifier1.

Figure 11

0026 What does the normal context of langue3 mean?

Langue is French for “language”.  It roughly corresponds to what is going on in one’s head during conversation in speech-alone talk.  For Saussure, langue consists of a system of differences.  As a normal context3langue3 can be regarded as a highly evolved sorting machine, where a spoken word2 is paired to a potential signified1, all the while knowing that the spoken-word2 signifier1 does not really objectify the thing itself1.  Neither does the mental-process signified1, even though the mental-process1 stands in the place of the thing itself1.

Does this make sense?

0027 What does the potential of a signified [cannot be objectified by] its signifier(s)1 imply?

Well, it seems that a signifier1 potentiates parole2, as each signifier1 fills a place in vocal system of differences2.  The corresponding signified1 underlies langue3, in so far as it1 occupies a place in a mental system of differences.

Plus, parole2 belongs to secondness, the realm of actuality, langue3 belongs to thirdness, the realm of normal contexts3, and the signified-signifier distinction1 belongs to firstness, the realm of possibility1.

Furthermore, Saussure’s semiology can be compared to the Positivist’s judgment, insofar as both may be portrayed as category-based nested forms.

Figure 12

Semiology applies to spoken language.  The Positivist’s judgment applies to scientific inquiry into nature.

0028 Note that the actuality2 of the Positivist’s judgment is the empirio-schematic judgment2, which consists of three elements: relation (disciplinary language), what is (measurements) and what ought to be (mathematical and mechanical models).  A judgment brings what is and what ought to be into relation.

The comparison bears fruit with the realization that semiology’s parole2 corresponds to an empirio-schematic actuality2that includes parole2, in the style of a disciplinary language (relation)2.  Both models (what ought to be)2 and observations (what is)2 are couched in terms of a disciplinary language (relation)2.

Plus, signifiers1 are comparable to phenomena1.  A signified1 is comparable to a thing itself1.

Finally, the positivist intellect3 appears to be a style of langue3.

0029 What is interesting is the sequence of events in semiology and in the Positivist’s judgment.  For semiology, a speech act2 enters into the slot for actuality2 and activates the langue3 signified-signifier1 machine.  For the Positivist’s judgment, the positivist intellect3 is always promoting awareness of phenomena1 in such a manner that a scientist tries to put something (perhaps, corresponding to a noumenon) into words2.  So, the normal context3 and the potential1 are hoping for and are prepared for a particular style of actuality2.

Figure 13

0030 What does this imply?

Both Descartes’ and Saussure’s dyads have the structure of secondness.  Descartes and Saussure, each in his own way, promote the idea of the human as a res cogitans, a thing that thinks.  When these two speak of “relation”, they mean the dyadic structure of cause and effect.

Typically, a hylomorphic structure enters the slot for actuality2 in a category-based nested form.  This fosters understanding.

However, we do not try to understand these dyads.  Instead, we unfold these dyads into category-based nested forms, in a systematic fashion.  One element of the dyad associates to actuality2.  The other element of the dyad associates to both normal context3 and potential1.  One element of the dyad becomes like a fly.  The other element of the dyad becomes like the spider’s web.

0031 These lines of thought, using only category-based nested forms, supports Deely’s contention that humans are semiotic animals, rather than rational animals (a modern and a premodern view) or thinking things (a modern view).

Peirce publishes his New List of Categories on May 14, 1867.  Deely suggests this moment as the inaugural date for The Age of Triadic Relations.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 5 of 22)

0032 The hylomorphe does not really “unfold” into a category-based nested form.

A better word might be “expands”.

The hylomorphe expands into a category-based nested form.

The category-based nested form encourages an impulse to “fill in the blanks”.  On one hand, an actuality2 demands a corresponding normal context3 and potential1.  On the other hand, a normal context3 and its potential1 draw in an appropriate actuality2.

0033 For example, here is a picture of the Positivist Judgment as a category-based nested form.

Figure 14

How does this apply to the character of scientific discovery?

On one hand, a scientist investigates an actuality2, calling for a corresponding normal context3 and potential1.

On the other hand, the normal context of the positivist intellect3 is extremely aware of the potential of phenomena1 to attract the curiosity of a scientist2.

Figure 15

0034 Are there other ways to expand Saussure’s semiology, whose core claim is presented here as a hylomorphic structure?

Figure 16

0035 Another way for Saussure’s dyad of parole [stipulates] langue to worm its way into Peirce’s category of thirdnesscomes by way of A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

Parole2a is a contenta-level actuality2.

Langue2b is a situationb-level actuality2.

Here is the resulting two-level interscope.

Figure 17

0036 On the content level, the normal context of speaking3a brings the actuality of parole2a into relation with the potential of ‘a vocal system of differences’1a.

On the situation level, the normal context of thinking3b brings the actuality of langue2b into relation with the potential of ‘a mental system of differences’1b

Going down the column for actuality2, langue2b virtually situates (and emerges from) parole2a.

0037 This expansion is more than a passage from secondness into thirdness.  Unlike the direct expansion into a category-based nested form, discussed earlier, the two-level expansion enters the terrain of sign.

0038 Basically, a sign is a triadic relation, where a sign-vehicle stands for a sign-object according to a sign-interpretant.  Three elements are required: a sign-vehicle, a sign-object and a sign-interpretant.  Peirce uses his categories to create typologies of signs, based on the categorical-character of sign-vehicles, sign-objects and sign-interpretants.  Diagrams of category-based nested forms allow an alternate way to depict sign-relations.

Saussure’s two-level interscope contains (what I call) a “stipulating” sign.  Scholastics use the label “specifying”.  So the following figure exhibits extrinsic specificative formal causality.

Figure 18

0039 Of course, these associations are speculative.  They are consistent with Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings, where the specificative and exemplar signs are diagrammed using category-based nested forms.

One attraction of this transition from Saussure’s dyad into Saussure’s specifying sign is that a finite system of differencesmay be called (in Peirce’s terminology) “a symbolic order”.  Consequently, grammar (for parole) corresponds to symbolic operations among elements within a symbolic order (for langue).

Figure 19

Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 6 of 22)

0040 Of course, one immediate implication places Descartes’ dyad into Saussure’s specifying sign, with modifications, as follows.

Figure 20

0041 The two-level interscope speaks in the disciplinary languages of category-based nested forms and of semiotics.

In the column of secondness, a construct of the mind2b virtually situates (and emerges from) an object of experience2a.

An object of experience2a (sign-vehicle) stands for a construct of the mind2b (sign-object) in regards to the normal context of thinking3b arising from the potential of ‘a symbolic order’1b (sign-interpretant).

0042 Compare that specifying sign to the first unwinding of Descartes’ dyadic pairing into a single category-based nested form.

Figure 21

0043 If I compare each depiction, I see that the two-level interscope’s sign-relation cannot manifest in the epistemological category-based nested form.

Still, matching epistemology and specifying sign in the realm of actuality produces an evocative comparison.

An object of experience2 for the Kant-inspired epistemology corresponds to a construct of the mind2b virtually situating the object of experience2a in the manner of a sign-object being paired to a sign-vehicle (by a sign-interpretant).

Latin schoolmen apply the label of fundamenta proximata (a proximate fundament) to the Kant-framed object of experience2, corresponding to the apparently simultaneous character of the sign-vehicle [stands for] the sign-object.  When I see a sign-vehicle (outside of me) as standing for a sign-object (inside of me), then the fundament, the sign-vehicle, is the proximate cause of, what I can call, a “sign”.

 0044 And that brings me back to Deely’s question, asking, “How do we define humans as semiotic animals?”

Well, for one, contemporary philosophers and intellectuals are not aware that modern dyads, such as the one from Descartes and the one from Saussure, can squirm their way into postmodern triads.  So, modern academics write about these dyads without realizing that their written words (parole) express triadic relations, whether as category-based nested forms or specifying signs (langue). 

I marvel at their genius.

0045 In chapters four and five, Deely retraces the history and etymology of the word, “semiotics”. 

He knows a lot about this topic, having written the masterwork, Four Ages of Understanding: The First Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to The Turn of the Twenty-First Century (2001, University of Toronto Press).

But, the chapters for this book are brief.  Plus, they are sort of funny, in a Divine Comedy sort of way.  There are two styles of revelation.  Fast and slow.

0046 Descartes writes in the 1600s.  Saussure presents his course on linguistics in the early 1900s.  Their dyads are ideas, presented in the structure of Peirce’s secondness, where one real element [accounts for] another real element.  Secondness is the realm of actuality, so the ideas express the look and the feel of actuality.

However, these actualities are received by brains adapted to the realness of triadic relations in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  So, as modern intellectuals address these ideas as entities belonging to the realm of actuality, they unwittingly explore category-based nested forms and follow the contours of specifying signs.

0047 Deely does not have the diagrams to make this statement.  However, in chapter six (and in chapter one), he tells a story.

In 2003, then pope, John Paul II, calls a Congress of Thomistic Philosophers, in order to discuss what happened in philosophy in this Age of Ideas.  

John Deely attends, with his massive book in tow, intent on giving the pope himself a copy.

Yet, he does not succeed.

0048 The 2003 Congress of Thomistic Philosophers does not declare that humans are semiotic animals.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 7 of 22)

0049 Deely begins chapter seven by noting that Baroque scholasticism concludes (around 1650-1700) and Peirce begins (around 1850-1900) with the same question, “What is the nature of signification?”

0050 Modern science does not help.

No scientist can put a sign-relation directly under a microscope.  But, a scientist can observe and measure one or two of the termini.  Often, the sign-vehicle and the sign-object (the proximate fundament) presents scientists with phenomena, which are duly measured and used to build models of sign-behavior.  Consequently, the sign-relation, the thing itself, can be put into a variety of boxes, each labeled “noumenon”, for each suite of phenomena produced by that sign-relation.

0051 After all, science does not worry about noumena.  It only observes and measures their phenomena.

Did I say that correctly?

0052 Deely notes that Kant makes a fine distinction between the term, “noumenon”, the intelligible aspect of things, and “Ding an sich” (German for “the thing itself”), the sensible aspect of things.

To me, this aside calls to mind a Cartesian version of Saussure’s sandwich.

Figure 22

So, in my book, “noumenon” and “the thing itself” coincide.

0053 Here is a twist.

According to ancient Greek philosophy and scholasticism, a thing should be both sensible and intelligible.

Does matter go with sensible?  Does intelligible associate to form?  

If they do then, oops, the big modern sandwich gets pressed into a panini.

Figure 23

0054 Charles Peirce calls the modern inquirer back to the approaches of the old philosophers, by saying that sign-vehicles cannot serve as phenomena that cause associated behaviors.  A stop sign does not cause a moving automobile to slow to a rolling standstill anymore than a fly causes a hygienist to swat it.  A stop sign represents the laws of the road.  A fly represents potential contamination and disease.

The term “represents” is a substitute for “stands for”.

Consequently, science-mavens propose variations and descriptions of the term, “stands for”, when they describe the nature of humans.  Humans are rational animals.  Humans are signifying creatures.  Humans are a symbolic species.  The list is long.

0055 Further confusion follows with the following set of statements.

I experience my world as subjective, since I embody the potential for sign-objects.

My world is subjective, since the world is the subject matter of my experiences.

I experience the world as objective, since my world is perfused with sign-vehicles.

Sign-objects are objective, because they are objects, not things.

We experience our world as intersubjective, because several of us can embody similar sign-objects in response to a single… um… subjective sign-vehicle.

Even though we may encounter the same sign-vehicle, we are not thinking precisely the same sign-object because we have different bodies.  However, the sign-objects that we are thinking have relational structures so similar that they may serve as one sign-vehicle.

So, our objective sign-objects become an intersubjective sign-vehicle.  

The resulting sign-object is suprasubjective.  The suprasubjective sign-object may be judged.  Indeed, the suprasubjective sign-object may even constitute a judgment.  So, our own judgments may be couched in suprasubjective frameworks, such as the dichotomy of true versus false or honest versus deceptive.

0056 Do I notice that there are two sign-relations in this set of statements?

There is a sign-relation that seems to be properly a sign-vehicle standing for a sign-object in regards to a sign-interpretant.

Then, there is sign-relation according to the human as a semiotic animal.   The Latins called this relation, “relatio secundum esse” (a relation according to esse_ce, where esse_ce describes, not the essence of, but the presence of humans).  I don’t know whether the sign-relation whose sign-vehicle is intersubjective precisely corresponds to the Latin term.  But, the possibility intrigues.

0057 In section 8.1, Deely discusses how triadic relations challenge scholastic philosophers who are trained to draw distinctions.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 8 of 22)

0058 The Latin scholastics faced great difficulties in regards to triadic relations, whether they recognized them or not.

First, Aristotle loves distinctions.  And Plato loves to transcend distinctions.  So, the Latins, who retain Platonic traditions through the loss of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christendom, have some difficulties with Aristotle, who enters the scene through translations of Arabic texts, booty from the Crusades.  Saint Thomas Aquinas brings the Aristotelian aspect of Christian philosophy up to speed in regards to reflecting on distinctions.

Second, it is not exactly obvious how to go from distinctions to triadic relations.  It’s like the old adage of blind men observing an elephant.  Their tactile-based reports describe different creatures.  But, the elephant is a single creature.

0059 Here are two distinctions that crop up in Deely’s discussion.

Figure 24

0060 The proximal fundament, what we see (hear, smell, taste or touch) and what we think we see has a contrast, the remote fundament, the person who does the seeing and thinking.

Ens reale is mind-independent being.  Ens rationis is mind-dependent being.  Ens rationis is also called “a being of reason”.

The scholastics start with these distinctions.  So, it is not so obvious how they are going to elucidate a triadic relation, where a sign-vehicle (SV) stands for a sign-object (SO) in regards to a sign-interpretant (SI).

0061 The following figure shows how each element of each distinction views the sign-relation.

Figure 25

0062 Note how the sign-interpretant (SI) spans the gap between ens reale and ens rationis.  The reason?  The SI is the ens reale that makes ens rationis possible.

0063 I could say that the two distinctions are “protosemiotic”, but that is only looking from the answer to the problem.

Surely, the intellectual journey from protosemiotic to semiotic is not obvious.

The logics of contradiction and non-contradiction apply to secondness.  When I hear the word, “reason”, I typically think of this type of logic.

0064 I suspect that the logics of contradiction and non-contradiction apply to fundamenta proxima and to ens reale.  I am not so sure about fundamenta remota and ens rationis.

So, calling humans “rational or reason-based animals” does not do the trick.

Neither does calling humans “irrational or superstitious animals”.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 9 of 22)

0065 For animals, specifying signs constitute a creatures’ Umwelt (or Significant World).  The content and situation level of a two-level interscope are joined when a subject, a content-level actuality2, appears.

0066 Consider the howl of a wolf.

Figure 26

In the scholastic world, a howl2a is subjective (the subject matter is a thing) and an image of a wolf2b is objective (the object is not the thing, but is a thought about the thing).

Both play a role in a specifying sign-relation.  A specifying sign traverses the content and situation levels.

Figure 27

0067 If I am a sheep, I hear the howl2a (SV) and immediately conjure a phantasm of a wolf2b (SO) within the normal context3b of “what does it mean to me?” (SI) arising from the potential of situating the howl1b (SI).

In the modern world, the howl2a is objective (that is, not dependent on who is hearing it).  Also, a phantasm of a wolf2b is subjective (that is, dependent on who is thinking it).  

Surely, when it comes to the terms, “subject” and “object”, the modern world presents an inverse of the scholastic.

The locus of “the subject” has switched from the subject matter to the thinking thing.  The former locus is scholastic.  The latter is modern.

0068 Keep that in mind when I say that there seems to be a backflow from the situation to the content level.  The situation-level question3b, “What does it mean to me?”, flows back into the content-level query3a, “What is happening?”.

Figure 28

In scholastic terms, the objective flows back into the subjective.

0069 At the same time, if I am a sheep, the situation-level phantasm of a wolf2b stands for a perspective-level question, “Where is my shepherd?”2c, in regards to the normal context of sensible action3c and the possibilities inherent in ‘protection’1c.

Figure 29

0070 The attempt to make sense3c of what it means to me3b and what is happening3a belongs to the sign-interpretant of an exemplar sign.  So does its3c potential1c.  An exemplar sign traverses the situation and perspective levels.  In the exemplar sign, the situation level is intersubjective (rather than objective) and the perspective level is suprasubjective (a relation that everyone can agree upon… or maybe… at least, hold in mutual regard and, in the best case, turns out to be true).

Here is a picture.

Figure 30

The specifying and exemplar signs are discussed in Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 10 of 22)

0071 The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want (Psalm 23).

In this case of the howl of a wolf, substitute the word, “fear” for “want”.

If I am a sheep, then (I suspect that) my shepherd has a bunch of rocks in his satchel, along with a sling to throw those rocks.  All it takes is one well-thrown rock to deter a wolf.

0072 Does this imply that the sign-object for the exemplar sign can become a sign-vehicle for another sign?

If so, then the sign-vehicle, asking, “Where is my shepherd?”2c, stands for a sign-object, the actuality of a shepherd and his flock2a, in regards to a sign-interpretant, where a normal context, saying that danger is happening3a, arises from the potential that I need not fear1a.

0073 This interventional sign is developed in Comments on Sasha Newell’s Article (2018) “The Affectiveness of Symbols”, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0074 Here is a picture.

Figure 31

0075 John Deely, during his time on Earth, serves as a shepherd, of sorts.  He always tries to keep the sheep together, but never really succeeds.  He is more an impresario than a shepherd, so when he says, “Hear my voice.”, one does not even need to be in the same room.  His flock includes semioticians, admirers, curious folk and a few Thomists, who love sheep analogies.  In the wings of his rag-tag coalition, wolves in sheep-clothing linger.

Deely preaches the specifying sign.  His inquiries exhibit the exemplar sign.  His behavior reminds me of the interventional sign.  If anyone lives life as a semiotic animal, Deely does.

0076 Deely is open to all comers, including doctors, scientists, pharmaceutical executives, shamans, fortune-tellers and Thomists.  Each is concerned with an instance of a sign relation, including symptoms, psychological and sociological causalities, drug-body and drug-mind interactions, spiritual wanderings, clues to future events, and, of course, the appropriateness of Thomas Aquinas for all applications.  Deely encourages each inquirer to consider their instances as examples of sign-relations and says, “See where that goes.”

0077 Here is Deely’s specifying sign.

Figure 32

0078 In Deely’s exemplar sign, topics for semiotics2b (SV) stands for the triadic nature of signs, mediations, judgments and so on2c (SO) in regards to a perspective-level normal context, asking “What can I learn?”3c, arising from the potential of discovery1c (SI).

Deely’s exemplar discovery is that the Baroque Scholastic, John Poinsot (writing around 1650 AD) arrives at the same definition of a sign-relation as Charles Peirce (writing in the 1850s AD).  This discovery couples the initiation of postmodernism (truly, not falsely, labeled) with the twilight of Thomistic (as well as other brands of) scholasticism.  Deely places the start of the modern Age of Ideas at 1650.  Deely dates the start of the Age of Triadic Relations with Peirce’s publication of his first list of categories in 1857.

0079 Here is Deely’s exemplar sign.

Figure 33

0080 In the book under examination, written midway between Deely’s publication of the monumental The Four Ages of Understanding in 2001 and his death in 2017, triadic relations2c (SV) stands for the nature of humans2a (SO) in regards to postmodern inquiry3a arising from potential of ‘overcoming modern distinctions, such as the distinction between idealism and realism’1a (SI).

0081 Here is my view of Deely’s interventional sign.

Figure 34