Teobaldelli, Paolo: "The Semiotic Turn in Karl-Otto Apel's Philosophy"


For this reason I see in this trope of Apel's thinking a convergence with the critical analysis I made in previous works (see Teobaldelli 1995, 1997) against a semiotics based upon an informational-semantic view. As a matter of fact, although the argumentation of Apel is a philosophical one, the conclusion implies equally the invalidation of such grounds, i.e. it is not possible to comprehend language(s) as defined and closed system(s) of signs and the meanings for which they stand.
The problem, then, is which conception of language (and of meaning) must semiotics embrace in order to affirm itself as a science. Yet in the strict confrontation with Apel it is possible to understand that to solve such a question is an extremely important task not only for a semiotics per se but also for the entire question regarding the validity of human sciences as such. It seems clear to me, then, that such a solution can be approached by building a semiotic philosophical Theory of Human Communication, a theory that would be able to ground itself on a global approach to the dimension of human interaction. That is to say, it would be adequate to build an integrated theory which would furnish us with valid heuristic concepts and models for the analysis and explanation of any possible acts of knowing on the part of human beings.
In this regard it seems necessary to verify whether the semiotic transformation of philosophy proposed by Apel would constitute such a theory.

3. Kommunikationsgemeinschaft and Sprachapriori through Peirce

We have already seen a first problem in the distinction made between the reflective a priori (Reflexionsapriori) and the bodily a priori, a distinction that underscores, in Apel's intentions, such theorized suspiscious disjunctions as mind/body, ideal/real internal/external etc. It would seem difficult, then, to individualize it as a paradigm shift in respect to a philosophy of consciousness. The point crucial to its verification consists in the Apelian conception of Sprachapriori, which is in some sense the real foundation of his transcendental semiotic theory. As a matter of fact, as in Peirce, a conception of a Community of Inquirers or Kommunikationsgemeinschaft as the transcendental intersubjective condition of any knowledge cannot be used without an analysis and conceptualisation of language, and in particular it requires an analysis of signification, which would be its ultimate point of verification.
At this point Apel expressly acquires Peirce's well-known thesis 1 according to which the knowledge of something as something without a real world, a real (sign) mediation and a real interpreter is not possible.
Apel rightly interprets, in my humble opinion, the Peircian interpretant, i.e. as bodily situated, since in fact this does not mean that the Peircian interpretant is the human interpreter, but rather only that the intepretant as meaning (of a sign mediation) is possible because it can have a realisation thanks to a living being (in the specific case the human being), i.e. it has its condition of possibility in the Leibapriori2, in the knowing engagement of a human being:

Primarily, the semiotic transformation of the concept of knowledge requires a real subject of sign usage that must replace pure consciousness. (p.103)


1. This can be said as well, in my humble opinion, of the semiotic theory provided by Eco (1975). [RETURN]

2. See references at the end of this paper.[RETURN]

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