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


His purpose consists, therefore, in a pragmatic integration of semantics, worked out according to the terms of the Austinian theory of speech acts. In this view semantics is not sufficient because it excludes the pretensions of sense of the speaker, his illocutionary acts and his self-situation in a pragmatic context. The function of representation does not represent the whole human significative acting. This is, in brief, the integration of the concept of double performative-propositional structure of meaning that Apel takes from Habermas (1971). Thus language does not merely describe, and does not merely represent the objective world, but rather it refers to the pragmatic context as well, and therefore not only to the object-world but also to the co-social-world of interaction.


I will now try to evaluate this final assumption through a comparison with a more general semiotic questioning.
Semantics would be then a part of linguistic activity, i.e. that related to the object of the physical world. The sign-meaning association regards only this aspect. But how is it possible, then, to signify something of relevance concerning human beings and society? What are the significata of human and social sciences?
It seems clear to me hat the solution proposed by Apel persists in the highly problematic junction between the referring to the object (gnoseology) and the self-reflexive hermeneutic principle. I think that the analysis of his semiotic Transformation of Philosophy reinforces the existence of a highly problematic node in the conception of signification, which I pointed out already in previous works (see Teobaldelli 1995 and 1997). As a matter of fact it seems necessary from a strictly philosophical point of view, to engage in an effort towards transcending the distinction between semantics and pragmatics, since, as we have just seen, the fundamental conception of semantics is nothing but a partial gnoseologistic view, and to accept it means to exclude any other role for pragmatics which would not be a mere contextual reference, i.e. only a secondary role in the significational process. But the main problem is that this view seems to deny the foundation of the human sciences, since, by assuming that they would not refer to the physical world of objects they are automatically encircled in a metaphysical dimension which cannot be semantically grounded. The pragmatic dimension is therefore conceived, as I have already pointed out by analysing the Non-Verbal communication (see Teobaldelli 1993 and 1995), as a mere behavioural dimension which is not significant but only a support to the real and true objective signification, i.e. the referring to objects.
Thus, in my opinion, the semiotic transformation of Philosophy proposed by Apel does not overcome, but rather remains caged within, what appears to be a semiotic philosophical and metaphysical dualism of signification, which therefore survives as a most difficult question to address.

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