Clues about Imprints

Begins: 10:30am

Imprints are motivated by previous experiences and are, like any recognition procedure, conventionally coded.  They are not arbitrarily established.

“In the recognition of symptoms, the expression is ready-made.”  The referent is not required.  Symptoms can be falsified.  Eco uses the example of the possibility that there can be smoke without there being a fire. (p 223)

[SS which lets face it you have no idea how this can be true.  Doesn’t the saying go “there’s is no smoke without fire”.]

[OS According to Eco, when the smoke is correlated to a fire then that’s when it’s a symptom used for mentioning.  In the case of mentioning, then if there’s smoke, then that means fire.  I think he is using the example of there can be smoke without fire to show that smoke and fire are distinct and one does not have to suggest or mean the other.  They both have different semantic markers.  Anyway, discovery of gold particles in eucalyptus leaves discredits the idea, and expression, that money doesn’t grow on trees! (Reported by Steve Connor, The Independent, Friday 25 October 2013). Semiotics questions.  Maybe the saying ‘there is no smoke without fire’ is an example of an overcoded convention such that we no longer even bother to question its meaning!]

Clues work in the exact opposite way to symptoms.  A clue stripped of any possible imprints, suggests ownership: the presence of someone can be abduced.  Clues are seldom coded (p 224).  Imprints and clues refer back to an agent.  An imprint, however can rarely be connected directly to an individual.  Eco uses the example of Robinson Crusoe’s discovery of a footprint.  He could connect the footprint to that of a ‘human being’ but not directly to the actual human being.  Who was in this instance, Friday.  After seeing the other human being Crusoe would likely have connected that individual to the footprint, but only through inference.  This is similar to the process of recognising a clue.  If a set of false teeth are found at a scene, it is safe to assume they belong to a human being.  However, connecting them to a specific human being must be done through inference or abduction.  It only known that someone who has false teeth are left at the scene. (p 224)

But many clues are overcoded objects. For example, if a pipe was found at the same scene, it is likely that we would assume a man had been there precisely because through convention pipes are associated to men.  The pipe is overcoded. (p 224)

[OS I wonder is that the same process that happens in stereotyping and gender bias?  I used to hate hearing how women had to play off a handicapped tee in golf.  Why?  Because men can drive the ball farther than women.  This answer infuriated me especially when accompanied by a stated fact that golf was about skill, technique and practice; not brute force and strength. ]

The second column in Table 39 deals with Ostension.  Ostension is an act or process whereby an object is picked up and shown.  Eco describes it is as ‘active signification. (p 225)  It is often used, for example, by two people who do not share a language.  It sometimes includes a pointer, but generally the object itself is picked up and “shown as the expression of the class which it is a member.” (p 224)  Eco claims that there is always a ‘stipulation of pertinence’, whether this is explicit or implicit.  For example, if someone picks up a bar of chocolate and shows it to someone about to go shopping it can mean one of two things:  please buy me chocolate, or please buy me this particular type of chocolate.

Eco mentions that much has been written on signification by ostension, including Wittgenstein (cited on p 225), and Swift, who invented an ostensive language.  Ostension can be used as an entire discourse as seen in the example of someone showing their shoes not to simply point to shoes as an object, but to tell a story about the shoes:  how dirty they are, or as a request to have them cleaned. (p 225).

Ostensions can be taken in two ways:

  1. a conventional expression of a cultural unit: the chocolate bar, the shoe..
  2. “intensional description of properties recorded by corresponding sememe”:  a cigarette can be shown to describe the properties of a cigarette. (p 226)

The latter, Eco states, is the only example of how ‘doubles’ can be used as signs. (p 226)

[SS Is that because all cigarettes have the same recognition markers:  cylindrical, long, white. Does he mean literally only cigarettes can double up as signs?]

Eco classifies ostensive production half way between the two ratios that classify the second parameter of his typology of modes of sign production. (p 225)

Ends 12:00pm

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