Residence in the world: Affordances, instruments, actions, roles, and identities

Paul Kockelman
2006 Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies  
This essay brings Peirce's understanding of meaning to bear on Heidegger's critique of mind, thereby articulating being-in-the-world in terms of semiosis. Using ideas developed in 'The semiotic stance ' (2005), it theorizes five interrelated semiotic processes -heeding a¤ordances, wielding instruments, undertaking actions, performing roles, and filling identities -that constitute the key modes of non-linguistic and/or non-representational meaning in which human-beings are always already
more » ... ally implicated. It doing so, it theorizes what is meant by purchases, functions, purposes, statuses, and values (as well as providing a semiotically sophisticated account of 'material culture'). And it generalizes Anscombe's idea of 'acting under a description' to comporting within an interpretation. Semiotica an instrument, there is an ensemble of interconnected instruments; and before there is an ensemble of interconnected instruments, there is an ensemble of interconnected a¤ordances, instruments, actions, roles, and identities. (Whole before part; multiplicity before singularity.) Prior to perception is meaningful experience: accommodating oneself to a collection of di¤erent kinds of relational processes. Experiencing, like perceiving, is temporally retentive, or oriented towards the past. And hence in experience we merge ourselves with previously existing relations among elements within an ensemble. (Experience before perception.) Prior to intention is meaningful behavior: assimilating to oneself a collection of di¤erent kinds of relational processes. Behaving, like intending, is temporally protentive, or orientated towards the future. And hence in behavior we merge with ourselves subsequently existing relations among elements within an ensemble. (Behavior before intention.) Prior to representations of the world (perceptions and intentions) is residence in the world (experience and behavior). And hence before there are mental states directed towards isolated states of a¤airs, there is relating to relations, or emergence. And before there are memories and plans (as retentive and protentive mental states), there is accommodation and assimilation (as retentive and protentive emergence). (Meaning before Mind; temporality before Time.) Prior to bridging subject-object divides, there are disturbances which dissolve unities. And hence before we distinguish between who merges and what they merge with, we need to examine emergence; and before we explain what would suture the subject and object, we need to understand what ruptured the 'sobject'. (Envorganism before organism and environment; ruptured unities before sutured dichotomies.) Theory fares poorly when it reverses the direction of priority. This essay treats residence in the world, or non-propositional modes of semiosis: heeding a¤ordances, wielding instruments, undertaking actions, performing roles, and filling identities. The holistic nexus of such modes of residing in the world will be called the residential whole. It should be read in conjunction with the essay entitled 'Representations of the world,' which treats propositional modes of semiosis: perceptions, beliefs, wishes, memories, plans, and intentions. The holistic nexus of such modes of representing the world will be called the representational whole. Needless to say, the residential whole and the representational whole, residence in the world and representations of the world, are just two slices through the same whole, separated only for analytic and expository purposes. Taken together, as irreducibly interrelated, these modes of semiosis constitute being-in-the-world. 1 * It should be stressed that the objects of these constituents are minimally 'objective.' Indeed, this is where the definition of objects o¤ered in the text is most relevant: the object of a sign is that to which all appropriate and e¤ective interpretants of that sign correspondingly relate. Signs and interpretants, then, are best understood as the sites where objects surface. Residence in the world 31
doi:10.1515/sem.2006.073 fatcat:at6zcxb6ibfeda7frg37jycozy