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


6. Further Development of Apel's Thought: The Questioning of Meaning

In a recent article, "Significato linguistico o intenzionalitá," Apel (1986) specifically analyzes the question of meaning, of reference, of representation and intentionality, trying to underline a primacy in terms of a methodological priority of the Sprachapriori on the Bewußteinsapriori in the comprehension of meaning, and consequently of a transcendental (intersubjectively conceived) philosophy on a philosophy of mind. In particular, he tries in that paper to characterize the semiotic transformation of philosophy both as a semantics and a linguistic-pragmatics. In terms of our analysis then, this represents the possibility of verifying whether he would add any new elements in respect with those outlined in Transformation der Philosophie, mainly as far as concerns the question of signification from a semantic perspective.
Writes Apel:

I would like to frame such questions by taking as reference the controversy which has been going on recently in the ambit of the so-called analytic philosophy of Anglo-Saxon matrix; I refer in particular to the discussed question: what is more basic in the foundation of a theory of meaning, the meaning articulated in the sense of linguistic conventions or rather the meaning as intention or intentional content in the mind?" (p.74)

Following this goal, Apel tries to underline the innovative aspect of the linguistic turn in respect to the Kantian investigation. The transcendental Kantian outcome (i.e. that experience is possible thanks to the fact of having the same conditions of possibility that make objects possible, i.e. the a priori categories of consciousness), which expressed a direct (phenomeno-perceptual) relation between the I and the world, becomes within the linguistic turn a linguistically-mediated relation and consequently the description of knowledge is made possible thanks to the fact it meets the same conditions of possibility as describable facts:

The representation of the world through the language __ and more precisely: through the structure of propositional sentence __ is rightly unavoidable. Here is that it is underlined the methodological primacy of the a priori of language (p.80)

But from a phenomenological point of view, according to Apel, it could be possible to go further toward the descriptive representation of facts through the "perceptual identification of the given phenomenon" which presents itself to the consciousness with evidence (Apel takes the example of photography). This principle of phenomenological evidence breaks the tautological circle between true sentence and fact. Yet it doesn't contradict the linguistic turn because, says Apel, if the phenomenic evidence proves the existence of an object on the other side it is not enough to produce an interpretative judgement. For example, in order to recognize an animal in a photograph we need to have some propositional-descriptive tools. In conclusion, we can say that Apel inserts himself between phenomenology and linguistics, the pragmatic integration of the linguistic turn. The empirical sciences cannot be based upon a mere logical semantics in order to gain a reference-based verification of their own enunciations, since, to comprehend them, they have to presuppose the communicative agreement among the subjects of science.
At this point Apel analyses the thesis expressed by Searle in Intentionality. According to this thesis, by carying out the linguistic act, the consciousness attributes to it the same conditions of satisfaction belonging to the state of consciousness, and therefore the philosophy of language would be a philosophy of consciousness. This assumption raises the question of the priority of language. Apel refutes it, by accusing it of being a methodological solipsism, since the same interpretation of facts which would precede the phenomenic evidence would be possible only thanks to language. Thus Apel believes that it should be necessary at least to speak of a reciprocal dependency between the a priori of consciousness and those of language.

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