Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 10, No 2 (2014)

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

How Can We Signify Being? Semiotics and Topological Self-Signification

Steven M. Rosen


The premise of this paper is that the goal of signifying Being central to ontological phenomenology has been tacitly subverted by the semiotic structure of conventional phenomenological writing. First it is demonstrated that the three components of the sign—sign-vehicle, object, and interpretant (C. S. Peirce)—bear an external relationship to each other when treated conventionally. This is linked to the abstractness of alphabetic language, which objectifies nature and splits subject and object. It is the subject-object divide that phenomenology must surmount if it is to signify Being. To this end, we go beyond alphabetic convention and explore the use of iconic signs. Following the lead of Merleau-Ponty, the iconic expression of Being is seen as entailing paradox, and we are directed to the fields of visual geometry and topology, where we work with three paradoxical figures: the Necker cube, Moebius strip, and Klein bottle. While the Necker cube and Moebius prove to have their limitations in fully signifying Being, the Klein bottle, possessing an added dimension (made palpable via a stereogram), can embody Being more intimately, provided that it is approached in a radically non-classical way. The essay closes with the realization that the most concrete signification of Being must be a self-signification. Here the author removes his cloak of anonymity and makes his presence tangibly felt in the text.

Full Text: PDF