Essere e Segno: l’ultimo Eco tra semiotica, ontologia e fenomenologia / Being adnd Sign: the last Eco between semiotics, ontology and phenomenology

Lorenzo Altieri


Umberto Eco’s work represents for us an extremely heuristic model for intertwining semiotics and phenomenology, and through this interweaving, for investigating the relationship between semiosis and the subject. Such subjectivity is inserted into a wider dynamic that involves the environment in which the living being moves. The formation of the semiotic structures emerges precisely from this interaction. The corporeal subject, the semiotic Leib, moves alongside an ontological background (the reticle mentioned by Prodi for example) that is already potentially semiotic. Here is the entrelacs of “something” and “someone” at the origin of perception and semiosis. However, the inclusion of the referent within semiotics was only the first stage of a parallel movement which saw, in Eco's very last work, an acknowledgment of the phenomenological subject’s decisive role in semiosis itself: that is, trespassing the famous “semiotic threshold” both downwards and upwards. Herein lies the novelty of “The threshold and the infinity”: it’s the subject who “decides” the grade of salience of the world, making it the leading operator of semiosis, as well as the very foundation of primary iconism. In our view, it is a small Eco’s Kehre, his personal “Copernican revolution”. Note, finally, that the role of the subject in front of semiosis is not the only major change, but also the identity of the subject itself: what in 1984 was still a transcendental subject (in Husserl’s sense) now becomes an active subject, whose bodily capabilities and cognitive abilities are conversely highlighted (in Merleau-Ponty’s sense).


Phenomenology, corporeal subject, ontological background, semiotic threshold, primary iconism


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