Signs of Meaning: The Need for Semiotics

In this first public Colloquium hosted by the Lyceum Institute, we ask: why is semiotics important? Why do we need it?

Join the live Q&A here
Thursday 7 July 2022 6:00pm ET

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Lecture Below

“Allow me to begin with a prefatory comment: it is difficult to give a presentation on semiotics for two reasons. The first, and perhaps more obvious reason, is that few people know what it really is. It is an unusual word—a word that may sound somehow exciting, but also mysterious. The second, very much related to the first, is that semiotics is at once a relatively new doctrine and yet it subsumes and incorporates and even elevates disciplines very ancient. Its explicit recognition has been rare, but its implicit influence ubiquitous in time and place. Moreover, semiotics brings us face to face with something unknown and yet nevertheless deeply familiar; and perhaps, even, unknown because it is so familiar: namely, signs.

“And so, although the temptation in a presentation such as this—this presentation serving as a certain kind of introduction to semiotics—the temptation is to pass a considerable amount of time traversing the meandering inquiry of what semiotics is—wending through the particularities of its doctrines, its terminologies, its histories—despite this temptation, I will spend relatively little time re-treading those already well-worn steps. There are many books, papers, and presentations already extant which cover the doctrinal, terminological, and historical grounds. Despite these introductions, semiotics remains somewhat mysterious to many. And so I wish today to head in a different direction, and I hope that you all will walk this perhaps even-more meandering path alongside me, for I believe it will give a kind of circumspective view of that well-tread ground, and thereby dispel some of the enigma.”


Brian Kemple holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX, where he wrote his dissertation under the inimitable John Deely. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. He has published two scholarly books—Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition (Brill: 2017) and The Intersections of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (De Gruyter: 2019), as well as a number of scholarly articles, popular articles, and his own Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person (2019) and the forthcoming Linguistic Signification: A Classical Course in Grammar and Composition (2021).

Wisdom & Culture

Too few are the hours dedicated in our day to the pursuit of contemplation: not only the fruits of genuine meditative insight, but also the practice whereby it becomes possible. Yet the philosophical desire sits in all our hearts, realized or not. Join us in either or both of these wonderful seminars to weave philosophical reflection—not mere abstract metaphysics—into the practice of your daily life.

Seven Interfaces of Philosophy – What is knowledge?

Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture – How do we think about culture?

IO2S Deely – A Response to Göran Sonesson

On 25 February 2022, Prof. Göran Sonesson presented “What is Cognitive Semiotics?” for the International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing. In the spirit of openness, I have penned a response to this presentation:

In his brief and dense work, The Human Use of Signs, Or Elements of Anthroposemiosis (published in 1994), John Deely writes that the semiotic analysis proper to criticism—as that species-specifically human intellectual activity whereby we exercise a conscious control over objectivity—concerns the integrity of a pattern of significations.[1]  The negative duty of the critic, then, is to discern when a pattern of significations lacks such integrity, and articulate this lack to the audience.

With all due respect, it is just such a lack of integrity which is found in Professor Sonesson’s presentation, “What is Cognitive Semiotics?” (with no intention of signifying anything concerning his subjective, moral integrity).  I will restrict the remarks constituting this response to three brief comments.

[1] Deely 1994: The Human Use of Signs, Or Elements of Anthroposemiosis, ¶228: “here it is not a question of the integrity of the inquirer but rather of the integrity of the pattern of significations into which inquiry is made.”

File Entry on Zenodo

IO2S Deely – Daydreams and Dark Magic: Semiotics and the Meaning of Evil

On 19 February 2022, at 2pm ET (check event times around the world here), our own Kirk Kanzelberger will present on “Daydreams and Dark Magic: Semiotics and the Meaning of Evil”. Dr. Kanzelberger holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University (New York), an M.A. in Philosophical and Systematic Theology from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (Berkeley), and a B.S. in Biology from the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena). His doctoral research was focused on moral psychology, resulting in his dissertation titled: The Mystical Daydream: Fictive Being and the Motive of Evil. That work and his correspondence with John Deely during that period led him to his present research interests in Peircean semiotics and its antecedents in Latin scholasticism. He is currently a Faculty Fellow and member of the Board of Directors of the Lyceum Institute. He also lectures in philosophy at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, USA, where he lives. He has also been a technologist for over thirty years, designing software for companies and research organizations on both US coasts. He still does part-time consulting in this area.

Join the Zoom meeting to participate.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

IO2S Deely – The Enchantment of De-Sign

On 11 January 2022 at 2pm ET/11am PT (7pm UTC – check times around the world), Farouk Y. Seif will present “The Enchantment of De-Sign: Navigation Toward Meaning-Making” as the first presentation of the International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing. Mauricio Neubern will provide commentary. This presentation is open to the public and can be watched live or as a recording below.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.