Opposing Oppositions

Begins 9:10 am [after a very strong black coffee]

Eco reminds us that we have learnt through the kinesic pointers [like but not limited to ‘the pointing finger’] that signs can exist that are replicable and motivated. But these are not features of signs but rather modes of production. (p 189)

This, he claims, is also the same in the case of oppositions. An opposition such as ‘arbitrary vs motivated’, for example, dominated the ‘whole history of philosophy of language’. A history so evidently based on experience that its position became accepted. But, according to Eco, in recent years its position demands more rigorous examination because a third opposition has been coupled with it and its associated ‘conventional vs natural’. The third opposition ‘digital vs analogical’ completes a ‘whole system’ that is presented in an ‘apparently logical form’. (p190)

digital vs analogical

arbitrary vs motivated

conventional vs natural

The vertical columns are supposed to list synonymous categories, which at a glance do not, he asserts. This points to the general problem of the “so-called iconic signs”. These have become all -embracing terms that cover many semiotic procedures. We sense a difference between the word /dog/ and the image of a dog even if we are asked to accept the iconic symbol. This difference is “not the trivial once between iconic and ‘arbitrary’”. (p190) It is a complex array of modes and production of the process of sign production. Which are bound in our cultural conventions.

Suspended 9:40am

[SS Oh where, oh where as the little girl been?]

[OS I have been to the hairdresser!]

[SS Is their only one?]

[OS You know what I mean. The hairdresser that is the one for me.]

Resumed 11am

So, Eco continues, [psst.. and so do you] “…iconism covers many semiotic procedures and many ways of producing signals ordered to a sign function.” (p 191) There are codes that provide rules for the generation of signs and their functions, but Eco claims, the process of correlating a word or an image to its content is not the same thing. Therefore to prove that an image signifies a dog, a few – six to be exact – naïve assumptions have to be challenged. He names all six ‘so-called- iconic-signs’ as:

(i)same properties as its object;

(ii)similar to its object;

(iii)analogous to its object;

(iv)motivated by its object;

(v)arbitrarily coded;

(vi)subject to multiple articulation.

Eco qualifies the arbitrariness of assumption (v) by asserting that they are culturally coded without being arbitrary. By introducing this flexible view of the coded convention allows ‘discrete’ analysis of their expression. This unhinges dependency of assumption (vi) therefore allowing the naivety of all six assumptions to be challenged, each in turn.

Ends 11:30am

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