The Routledge Companion to Semiotics

By Paul Cobley | Go to book overview

10
SEMIOETHICS

SUSAN PETRILLI AND AUGUSTO PONZIO


SEMIOETHICS AS DIAGNOSTIC WITHOUT PATIENTS

‘Semioethics’ is a neologism which has its origins in the early 1980s with ‘ethosemiotics’, and was introduced by us as the title of one of our Italian books in 2003 (Semioetica). We propose the term ‘semioethics’ (Ponzio and Petrilli 2003; Deely et al. 2005) to name an approach or attitude we deem necessary today more than ever before in the context of globalization. Semioethics is not intended as a discipline in its own right, but as a perspective, an orientation in the study of signs. By ‘semioethics’ we understand the propensity in semiotics to recover its ancient vocation as ‘semeiotics’ (or symptomatology), which focuses on symptoms. A major issue for semioethics is ‘care for life’ in a global perspective (Sebeok 2001b), according to which semiosis and life converge (Ponzio and Petrilli 2001, 2005). This global perspective is made ever more urgent by growing interference in planetary communication, between the historicalsocial and biological spheres, between the cultural and natural spheres, and between the semiosphere (Lotman) and the biosphere.

The origin of semiotics may be identified in symptomatology, following Sebeok (who contextualizes the general science of signs in a tradition of thought that originated with Hippocrates (c. 460–377 BCE) and was developed by Galen (c. 129–200)). The connection between semiotics and medical semiotics is also examined by Eugen Baer (1988: 37–99). But Rudolph Kleinpaul in Sprache ohne Worte (1972 [1888]: 103) had already indicated Hippocrates as ‘der Vater und Meister aller Semiotik’, the father and master of all semiotics. Symptomatology became a branch of medicine characterized by a threefold temporal orientation according to Galen who recovered the teachings of Hippocrates (praeteritorum cognitio, praesentium inspectio, futurorum providentia): towards the past (anamnesis), the present (diagnostics), the future (prognosis). Apart from acquiring knowledge about its origins, to relate semiotics to the branch of medicine that studies symptoms implies recovery of the ethical instance of semiotic studies. The ethical instance is explicit in the Hippocratic oath. This is not just a question of professional ethics, it does not concern the physician solely in the role of physician. Instead, the whole person in one’s daily activity is involved (see Hippocrates, Decorum, VII, and Precepta, VI). Hippocrates prescribed that the physician should help citizens and foreigners alike and, if necessary, without payment. For wherever there is love for a human

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The Routledge Companion to Semiotics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Routledge Companion to Semiotics i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Using This Book xix
  • Part I- Understanding Semiotics 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Ancient Semiotics 13
  • 2 - Semiotics of Nature 29
  • 3 - Umwelt and Modelling 43
  • 4 - Logic and Cognition 57
  • 5 - Realism and Epistemology 74
  • 6 - Peirce, Phenomenology and Semiotics 89
  • 7 - The Saussurean Heritage 101
  • 8 - Sociosemiotics 118
  • 9 - Semiotics of Media and Culture 135
  • 10 - Semioethics 150
  • Part II - Key Themes and Major Figures in Semiotics 163
  • References 359
  • Index 389
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