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


It is thus clear that a solution to this question is to be acquired only through further reflection on the problematic conception of the significata of linguistic games and therefore through a deep investigation of the notion of the transcendental linguistic game, i.e. of the philosophia sub specie semiotica:

In my opinion a modern transcendental philosophy is primarily concerned with a reflection upon the meaning __ and thus also upon the implications of the meaning __ of argument as such (p.138)

Is a foundation of human sciences possible on a level of such abstraction that the discriminating factor would not be limited to a confrontation with the empirical datum? Apel is very lucid and clever in his criticisms of the Logic of Science based upon the mere descriptionality of facts and states of affairs. His effort in surpassing it, considers the possibility of going further with the realism/idealism distinction, which seems to be a solid dichotomy for the main axiomatization of semiotics as well (see Teobaldelli 1997). Apel proposes, in this regard, the following kind of dialectical mediation:

Indeed, in my opinion both the Wittgensteinian concept of the 'language game' and Peirce's concept of the 'community' can be interpreted in such a manner that, on the one hand, the functional point of Kant's transcendental idealism is retained [...] whilst on the other, a mediation of Kant's transcendental idealism with a realism, and even historical materialism of society that has indeed always been presupposed (as the subject-object of science) is implied. The possibility and even necessity for such an interpretation is conditioned by the fact that a sense-critical transcendental philosophy does not, as does Kant's, commence from the metaphysical presupposition of a distinction between the thing-in-itself and the empirical world of appearances, nor from the presupposition of a transcendental subject as the limit of the empirical world. Rather, it commences from the fact that the ideal norms that must be presupposed in order for any argument to have meaning (i.e. the postulates concerning the formation of consensus in knowledge of the real world and in agreement as to a continuation of the real world through historical praxis) are in principle destined to be realized in a concrete society (p.139-140).

The subject of consensus, then, is no longer consciousness but rather the communicative and intersubjective praxis which works out a comprehension of the historical society and science within a reference to the unlimited ideal community of communication.
But let us better characterize the nucleus of that question: Apel believes he has found the self-reflexive principle within the experience of being in (taking part in) an intersubjective medium which would permit the Kommunikationsgemeinschaft. Yet this experience is, according to Apel, of a different type than the one concerning the empirical datum; if the latter "opens up the transcendental horizon for such entities as contingent 'laws'," and thus concerns the natural sciences, the former opens up the transcendental horizon toward an experience which falls under the category of a reflection, a qualitative revision of one's own conceptual presuppositions. It is therefore the well known difference between erklären (to explain) and verstehen (to comprehend) as different transcendental scientific methodologies, a difference which comes from the above presupposed dichotomy between Reflexionsapriori and Leibapriori, and which persists then as a problematic node. It can be objected in fact that the natural sciences, too, must reflect upon their own concepts and it is sufficient to consider, for example, the modeling of experimental phenomena done in any laboratory.

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