[OS Do you remember when ‘the’ professor asked how I could call something a ‘fact’? Even though I knew he was being a pedantic ass, I found it hard to explain exactly what is meant by ‘a statement of fact’. Even Umberto Eco, seems to struggle to explain as this blog will show.]
[SS Or, it’s not Eco who is struggling but us!]
[OS Maybe, but to make it really objective we can quote exactly what Eco states and see how clear it is to everyone else.]
On page 158 of his Theory, Eco states that “semiosis lives as a fact in a world of facts.” It takes place among events and many events happen that no one could have anticipated. Similarly, as Eco previously explained, messages can be interpreted in a way that could not have been anticipated by its sender. Sometimes an innovatory statement can upset the structure of codes when they do not fit with the order of content. When this happens it raises an age old philosophical distinction between analytic and synthetic judgements . Eco argues that the focus on distinction should not be between analytic and synthetic but rather on the “semiotic distinction between semiotic and factual judgements.” (p158)
Particular examples of judgements are statements that can be either semiotic or factual. This is how Eco explains the difference between these two kinds of statements:
“a) /This is a one dollar bill/ is not a statement: it is a mention (see 3.3).
b) /One dollar is worth 625 lire/ was a semiotic statement in 1971, thereby expressing a coded signifying relationship.
c) /One dollar is worth 580 lire/ was an astonishing factual statement emitted in a given day during 1972.
d) /One dollar is worth 580 lire/ became a semiotic statement of type (b) during 1972”. (p160)
It seems the notion of change is the key to the difference between a factual and a semiotic statement as is acceptance and change. To be semiotic, something factual when stated, must be accepted by a society and remain so until “the arrival of another code-changing meta-semiotic adjustment.” (p160)
To mention something is to refer to something. To present something as fact, not only has something been referred to, but it has been given meaning. That ‘something’ is semiotic when it is coded and accepted.
[OS You see there is some basic common sense to all of this.]
[SS But what about statements that come from people with no common sense?]
[OS Oh. That’s quite a judgement….]