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Elize Bisanz

Texas Tech University, USA

The Symbolic Turn, Derrida’s Error, and Kristeva’s Answer

“The object of reasoning is to find out, from the consideration
of what we already know, something else which we do not know.”
Charles. S. Peirce

The history of modern semiotic is rich with theories that explain the concept of the sign, its relations to reasoning, behavior, and cultural evolution, including its numerous manifestations. As a science, and in its attempt to study the specific forces that generate changes, semiotic has often adapted the features of the structures it examines. Whereas medieval science was concerned with things, followed by the science of ideas, modern science emerged as the age of semiotic with its focus on texts, words, and rhetoric, a movement that also led to paradigms such as “the linguistic turn.” 

As is widely known, among the most prominent theories that shaped the semiotic discourse is the structuralist model of the sign, primarily focusing on linguistic articulation; this reductionist approach to the ultimate tool of communication has mostly neglected the element of symbolic force, the disposition of growth inherent in signs. The modern urgency of modeling the world through natural language and the adaptation to the requirements of its logic confirms the predominant human desire to mark and preserve ideas, expressions, and, consequently, their objects of representation.

The lecture questions the logic that steers the linguistic turn and its offspring, the pictorial or the iconic turn, and advocates for a broader semiotic model. Considering life’s relational and dynamic nature, it suggests complementing the iconic with a “symbolic turn” as a semiotic tool for a better understanding of human reasoning in the age of artificial and synthetic communication.