Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Švantner, M.
Two basic analyses of the historiography of semiotics: M. Foucault’s comparative semiology and J.N. Deely’s semiotic realism
(2020) Semiotica, 2020 (233), pp. 159-177.

DOI: 10.1515/sem-2017-0108

In this study I compare the work of two scholars who are important for contemporary research into the history of semiotics. The main goal of the study is to describe specific rhetorical/figurative forms and structures of persuasion between two epistemological positions that determine various possibilities in the historiography of semiotics. The main question is this: how do we understand two important metatheoretical forms of descriptions in the historiography of semiotics or the history of sign relations?

The first perspective is semiology and its corollary, “structuralism,” as presented in Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things. This perspective prefers to consider history as a set of ruptures (i). The second position explores the possibility of the historical development of semiotic consciousness as presented in the works of John N. Deely (ii). The main aim of this study lies in the exploration of these two different epistemological bases – divergent bases for developing specific understandings of interconnections that hold between between semiotics, semiosis and historical processes. A goal of this paper is to demonstrate the limits and advantages of these two paradigmatic positions. The positions in question are “meta-theoretical” in the following senses such that: (i) the historical episteme is taken to be an a priori determinant of all sign-operations in a given era and is also the semiologic grid through which Foucault approaches every mode of scientific knowledge (from “science” to “economy” and beyond); (ii) the quasi-Hegelian development of semiotic consciousness based on a conception of the sign considered as a triadic ontological relation. The latter is Deely’s guiding meta-principle, through which the history of semiotics can be articulated, examined and evaluated. © 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2020.

Author Keywords
Deely; Foucault; historical a priori; historiography of semiotics; Peirce; semiology

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