By Andrew Stables (auth.), Andrew Stables (eds.)
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Extra resources for Be(com)ing Human: Semiosis and the Myth of Reason
Ogden and I. A. Richards, who were interested in the psychology of meaning and literary response, did engage with Saussure to a limited degree, though only to dismiss him as an anti-realist: Unfortunately this [Saussurean] theory of signs, by neglecting entirely the things for which signs stand, was from the beginning cut off from any contact with scientific methods of verification. (Ogden and Richards, 1923: 8). This brute and, frankly, anti-intellectual rejection of the relativism that Saussure implies has unfortunately been widespread in Anglophone culture and continues to the present day.
But nontotalization can also be determined in another way: not from the standpoint of the concept of finitude as assigning us to an empirical view, but from the standpoint of the concept of freeplay. If totalization no longer has any meaning, it is not because the infinity of a field cannot be covered by a finite glance or a finite discourse, but because the nature of the field that is, language and a finite language -excludes totalization. This field is in fact that of freeplay, that is to say, a field of infinite substitutions in the 22 THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS closure of a finite ensemble.
28 Arguably as with Peirce, there is no succinct statement of his philosophy of language. However, unlike Peirce (for whom the job would be more difficult to undertake), there is an excellent standard summary of Saussure’s thought written by Jonathan Culler (Culler, 1976). The central features of Saussure’s philosophy of language are his overall conception of language, his distinction between deep structure and surface utterance, his distinction between Signifier and Signified, and his concern with meaning as relational.