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Cross-political pan-commercialism in the postmodern age and

Date:2016-11-30 02:37Author:youzhengli
Cross-political pan-commercialism in the postmodern age and proposed readjustment of semiotic practices 【published in Semiotica 2016 -0156. Please read the edited text】 Youzheng Li Key words: academic commercialization, general semiotic


Cross-political pan-commercialism in the postmodern age and proposed readjustment of semiotic practices

【published in Semiotica 2016 -0156. Please read the edited text】

                Youzheng Li


Key words: academic commercialization, general semiotics, human sciences,

Institutionalizational monopoly



The present-day academic orientation of the semiotic movement is basically determined by professional institutions based on a global pan-commercialism across different political systems. This universal institutionalized scholarly tendency produces a utilitarian-motivated, pragmatist-determined attitude towards studies as well as to a set of profit-searching procedures. With a purpose to reviving the classical ethos for scientific truth this paper redefines general semiotics as an interdisciplinary-directed functional organizer rather than as some fundamental philosophical doctrines. Being segregated from the main stream of applied semiotic practices performed in different disciplines and cultural aspects the redefined general semiotics (GS model) will be directed to the higher academic-strategic problems about organizing the functionally unified development of human sciences in confrontation with the current intellectual-materialist domination originating from the commercial-technological globalization over spiritual freedom.


Introduction: Cultural-academic commercialization and future of human sciences

1.     Global pan-commercialism and its serious restrictions on scientific developments of the humanities and general theoretical-semiotics

1.1 Pan-commercialism, historical-inherited compositional mixture of the humanities and empirical-rational-directed formation of human science; the basic binary choice between truth and profits in outlook of academic life

1.2 The confluence of pan-commercialism with the post-modernist epistemological deviation of the humanities from scientific orientation


1.3  The multiply unanimous tendencies of different kinds of academic ideological powers leading to obstructing the scientific development of the humanities

1.4   The multiply unanimous tendencies of different kinds of academic ideological powers leading to obstructing the scientific development of the humanities

1.5  The multiply unanimous tendencies of different kinds of academic ideological powers leading to obstructing the scientific development of the humanities


2. A necessary reclassification of semiotic practices performed at different epistemological levels in confrontation of global cultural-academic commercialism

2.1 A suggested redefinition of semiotics for expanding and deepening its scientific goal for modernizing human sciences

2.2 A renewed reflection on nature and function of semiotics in contexts of professional- profitable utilitarianism and inherited intellectual-historical dogmatism

2.3 The interdisciplinary essence of semiotic practices and semiotics at its general and applied levels



Introduction: Cultural-academic commercialization and future of human sciences


The present-day criticism against technological-domination, social commercialism and cultural consumerism has been indeed prevailing everywhere, but problems about their determinative relationship to the humanities have been still rarely discussed. The present post-modern times can be first of all characterized by its global pan-commercialism and universal technicalization in all social and cultural realms, which are all roundly legalized. Moreover, the post-Cold-war globalization has already one-dimensionally unified all societal-cultural structures of mankind on the basis of the materialist institutionalization. Or, in other words, the institutional globalization embodied in the current economic-ecological trinity, which consists of sciences, technology and commercialism, has already become the determinative force in human life. As the consequences of this triple-directed globalization, educational-academic fields of the world are naturally determined by the scientific-technical-central mechanisms; accordingly global social-academic professional ecology has been already under the sway of the technological-consumerist tri-mechanism. This kind of triply determined academic-ideological orientation, on the other hand, makes contemporary communities have obtained the unprecedented social-psychological stability across the world as well. As a result, most postmodern intellectuals, different from their classical-literary-typed counterparts in modern historical past, have been technical-procedurally trained in education and knowledge. The same term “intellectual” today refers to the completely different mental-behavioral make-ups of educated personality. Because scientific-technical training is highly institutionalized the pan-technicalized type of intellectuals living in modern overall legalized communities would become doubly suitable for the professional-institutionalized conditions. In a word, the intellectual as the man of knowledge in general nowadays is already almost totally technicalized at educational, professional and intellectual realities. The contemporary technicalized man lives and works in the technological plus commercialized world, which trains the postmodern man to become a new type of personality, who behaves faithfully following various fixed pan-legal-institutionalized channels. In former times the political and economic aspects in different countries had been solidified into the unified societies with their respective clearly-defined political-moral features, while at the era of globalization today the institutional separation of political and economic aspects brings about more flexible combination between political and economic parts with a consequence that the worse types of two aspects could be reorganized into the worst type of political-economic compound. As a result, the morally worse political and economic aspects are probably co-reorganized to shape also the worse type of global-interconnected cultural and humanity-scholarly ecology. 



As a matter of fact, commercialism has been already separated from its original social-political-historical backgrounds, becoming a relatively autonomous social-cultural controlling-mechanism. Because of this genealogical separation, commercialism has spread over almost all global areas together with its different connected social-cultural-psychological aspects, including generally the way of life of mankind. In cultural-academic perspective, commercialism based on scientific-technological centrism has logically led to a kind of anti-intellectualism with respect to matters of the humanities and cultural activities about literature/arts and entertainments.


Accordingly humanity-academia and humanity-academics unprecedentedly exist in highly institutionalized professional communities where humanity-academics not only live in the objectively rigidified network of legalized social systems, on which their livelihood relies but also compulsorily behave in obedience to the fixedly ruled academic systems, which have become ever-increasingly more regulated by the cultural-marketing rules. Almost all humanity-intellectuals, who self-claim as liberal thinkers, have become actually the professional-legalized “rational animals”, namely their instrumental rationality is trained to make them more comfortably follow the social-academically regulated tracks in their whole life. Under such a thoroughly legalized social-cultural condition the axiological frame of binary values, such as good-bad, right-wrong, moral-immoral in professional practices, are already prefixed and regulated by a lot of law systems and social-customary rules; and people’s motivational inclinations and behavioral manners are basically decided by, and directed to, the cultural-academically commercialized normal frames. As legalized and socialized human beings, humanity-scholars’ independent will for decisions about the basic norms, criteria and even procedures is naturally further weakened or almost lost. That means academic behaviors are logically directed to the objectively regulated rules and manners determined by professionally regulated systems. In other words, for the professionalized humanity-scholars, what and how to do are already basically conditioned by the objectively fixed rules and socially coerced habits.


The so-called pan-commercializational era today refers not only to the special period, when the exchange of products and interests becomes the predominant principle for guiding manners in all communities of the world, but also to the times, when breadth and depth of social legalization has become more extensively and deeply strengthened. Its concrete operational form is defined by the universalized marketing, which determines the exchange rules of all kinds of products, including cultural and academic ones. When educational and academic systems operate according to and determined by respective professional marketing, the basic principles, norms and rules, which regulate individual and collective academic-behaviors, are also objectively or exteriorly determined. The so-called intellectual freedom in scholarship, after all, can only be limited in the range restricted by the mechanisms of professional marketing. As a result, the subjective autonomy concerning free choices and independent decisions must be more and more narrowed. In result, this social-historically hugest and most radical revolution in our commercial-technicalizational times has also led to remarkable changes in entire intellectual life of mankind.


On the other hand, we see clearly that regarding natural and social sciences the consequence and influence of this pan-commercializational and pan-legalizational social-cultural revolution happening in the postmodern times are, totally speaking, not only positive but also unavoidable in human civilization. Such a modern plus most-modern social-historical radical evolution will be an irreversible turning-point in human history: the human life has been doomed to develop ever since along the scientific-technical orientation. However, as regards the humanities and cultural activities, the related consequence and its significance of this commercial-technological revolution are complicatedly ambiguous. We may even judge that in this post-modern era the commercial-institutionalizational world determines and controls the orientation of the humanities and cultural activities through the professional-institutional mechanisms. The scientific-technological developments in general can also certainly provide the scientific development of the humanities with some technically useful tools if we can recognize that the scientificity relevant to human sciences should be differently defined in comparison with that of natural and even social sciences. The more significantly derived question especially rests on a different dimension of technical-commercialization, which is definitely negative to the mission about rational modernization of global human sciences. In this regard, there are at least three obvious consequences involved. First, the objectively social power of commercial-technological ideology is determinatively strong; second, the derived first principles of humanity-academic life are directed to materialist-profits; third, ethical spontaneity of humanity-academic agents is unavoidably weakened. All the three consequences should be reexamined and improved carefully and seriously for the genuine rational development of human sciences. The related task is appealing to a new wisdom in postmodern times.


Why subjective freedom in intellectual and humanity-scholarly creations can hardly function effectively in the post-modern commercialized times? Because in the humanities the objective “first principle” directed to professional profits has already replaced that of scientific truth that had been ideally valid in old times. Scientific truth should be determined in reference to intellectual and scholarly contents or scientific value, while professional profits must first of all be determined by the currently valid utilitarian standards embodied in academic and educational productions, or by the “use value”, in academic and educational marketing related to the humanities. With the lack of objective criteria and standards, scientific value (truth) and commercialized use value (utility) can hardly coincide with each other with respect to the humanities. This radical split concerning scientific innate-value and social exchange-value in the humanities becomes the most noteworthy character in the present post-modern social-cultural contexts. As part of the humanities or human sciences, the semiotic practices today are related to all above-mentioned intellectual problems concerning epistemology, methodology and ethical-pragmatics.


This paper attempts to initiate a temporary GS-model as a first solvable step regarding these three theoretical-pragmatic problematics, which are traditionally attached to the authoritatively guiding-discipline philosophy. In this paper the author once again mentions the key relational problem between general semiotics and philosophy, suggesting that the latter should be thoroughly reconsidered and reorganized in contemporary semiotic movement. And according to the strategic idea of GS-model, semiotics is to be divided into two categories—compartmental applied one (semiotics-1) and general theoretical one (semiotics-2), the latter will take over a lot of traditional tasks to be decided by philosophy. Differently from the single-philosophic-disciplinary determinism, the general-semiotic epistemological strategy embodied in its operative GS-model will absorb its basic theoretical sources from all disciplines, including philosophy.


1. Global pan-commercialism and its serious restrictions on scientific developments of the humanities and general theoretical-semiotics


1.1 Pan-commercialism, historical-inherited compositional mixture of the humanities and empirical-rational-directed formation of human science; the basic binary choice between truth and profits in outlook of academic life


In the Cold-War period, sciences and technology originated in the western civilization had already increasingly developed in all countries that have different cultural traditions and political histories; and in the Post-Cold-War period, pan-commercialism originated in western Capitalism has started steadily spreading also in all countries despite divergence of their different polities. As a result, we may be able to generalize that the general cultural orientation of the so-called post-modern world today has turned to be almost totally determined by a cross-political pan-commercialism.  Accordingly, the triple desires for money/celebrity/power and the prerequisite technical conditions for obtaining them are all embodied in efforts of most intellectuals at building-up related organizing mechanisms of all kinds. No doubt, the formations of power-organizations are the basic technical conditions for carrying out these interest-pursuits. In effect, the personal desires for material and spiritual benefits and the collective concerns with economic/influential growths have become yet a universal dream of human beings in our pan-commercialized world. The so-called dream of mankind today is already universally reduced to the mere satisfaction of materialist-focused desires. In other words, notions of happiness and interests in human life have been, firstly in history, so much generally and thoroughly materialized. It is natural that derived social-cultural commercialism at present has become yet the leading feature of the postmodern social-cultural conditions that dominate at each corners of the world. It is curious to note that this general materialized situation in modern human civilization is unrelated to the existent divergence of various political-control systems on globe. Economic system and political system are no longer necessarily bound together from now on, and the related academic-cultural systems of different countries tend to be unified just because of this pan-commercialism. Moreover, the basic typology of powerful organizations expressed in society, culture and scholarship even obviously becomes economic-determined since the end of last century. Therefore we see more and more clearly that so-called economic globalization has produced a cross-political, closely-interconnected and mutual-cooperative network of global economic powers of different countries, which is organized in the multiple international economic hierarchies; the economic globalization is therefore becoming the universally accepted orientation in the current postmodern era, determining and unifying the ways of almost all human activities, including cultural-creative and humanity-academic ones. The fact implies that the orientations and procedures of educational and humanity-scholarly professions are also eventually determined by the ever-increasingly strengthened economic conditions and related commercializing scales. Under the controlling guidance of this global commercial determinism ever-increasingly prevailing since the new century, educations and humanity-scholarship have first of all turned to be various more strictly institutionalized professional units or organizations. Accordingly the identity of academic-educational professional systems is generally defined by various economically determinative factors regarding its related motivation, training-ways, goals, procedures, products, circulation of academic goods and even life style for sensualist enjoyments. These post-modernist cultural-academic features are respectively manifested in all professional fields and aspects. If scientific tendency of natural and social sciences are logically in accordance with the totally commercialized conditions in the world, or in other words, they are just the very technical foundations of the latter, the situations concerning cultural activities and human sciences have been just passively and misleadingly guided and determined by the global commercialized conditions. In the light of this, for the sake of maintaining their professional survival in this postmodern commercialized “New World”, cultural creations and human sciences couldn’t help follow not only the directions essentially settled in the commercialized mechanisms but also have to constantly readjust their intellectual tastes and scholarly orientations in order to follow or meet with domineering trends caused by a International Imperative of this Pan-commercialized Establishments. As a result, humanity-academic commercialized tendency has already developed internationally beyond political demarcations.


Following the regulations of all kinds of material and cultural productions determined, directly or indirectly, by the pan-commercialism, various academic-educational units and collectives tend to search for expanding their organizational powers through building up cross-regionally and even cross-nationally quasi-monopolizing associations in order to more profitably gaining their joined professional interests through the networks of domestic and international global marketing. With respect to cultural activities and the humanities, which in essence lack definite objective references, this tendency is even expressed to further neglect the spiritual and scientific criteria as such with a focus on more productively searching for all profitable means and expedient channels in the scholarly-professional world. As a result, to submissively follow current predominant scholarly trends and cultural-fashions actually prevailing in academic communities will be a logical choice for intellectual agents. For the professional interests as the final aim can only be obtained through closely following existent effectively fixed routes eventually established and guided by academic-powers. All national economic entities usually tend to join cross-national corporations beyond boundaries of their respective political systems in order to win and increase each other’s profits. A great number of national academic units, which are under the sway of the same global pan-commercialism, would naturally adopt the same strategy: in order to search for their own academic profits they are engaged in efforts for intellectual-power’s expansion through building up cross-national or international cultural-academic dominating associations. Global pan-commercialism will lead to the unified goal of common professional profits with their chosen scholarly priority, which would then not necessarily be directed towards scientific progress. In such a commercial-directed cross-national associations or organizations the exchange of common interests, which are to be realized at the international commercialized level, would become the most attractive principle for guiding their scholarly practices. In this regard, either the humanities in general or interdisciplinary semiotics in particular, are even more liable to follow the same professional line, because their constitutional complications and involved disorderly standards are more easily to be manipulated or controlled in the chosen commercialized games of power based on the utilitarian logic of global academic marketing. In this term the way for searching professional profits must be disconnected with the purely intellectual values, making humanity-scholarship as the mere tools for gaining individual and factional benefits. In the light of the above discussion, now we can definitely judge that the academic-epistemological separation between the principle of professional profits and that of scientific truth in humanity-scholarly practices has already become the utmost crucial challenge facing the humanities in general and semiotic movement in particular. In human history, therefore, we are necessarily faced with an embarrassing  binary choice between the research principle for scientific truth and that for professional interests?


In connection with the above problem of the orientation-directed binary choice with respect to the humanities, we can further see a related separation occurring between the employed materials for studies and the related sets of procedures in their professional-tactic operations, in which the really relevant and significant part is no more related to the “content” or “material” (as subject matter) employed but rather to the aim and method in connection with procedures for processing the content-material within the pan-commercialized academic-operative procedures. In other words, in this respect the determinative part is no longer the content of thought but rather the effective institutionalized procedures for operating with the content of thought. This tendency is especially indicated in connection with the humanities, in which scholars, despite their dealing with the same kinds of intellectual content as material just like before, are nevertheless determined by different chosen factors such as motives, purposes, methods and criteria. For those motivational and operative factors could be further influenced by certain commercialized social-cultural-academic determinative powers. The character of scholarship of the humanities may be, firstly in history, primarily guided by the main purpose of scholars for securing the professional-utilitarian survival. The traditional criterion of (scientific) “truth” in humanity-scholarly practices is replaced by a post-modern commercial-sensed (professional) “success”.  Similarly, this general tendency has surely also reflected the intellectual orientation of contemporary semiotic movement.


By the way, we should understand a basic distinction existing between natural-social sciences and human sciences that cultural commercialization does not so much seriously interfere in the scientific orientations and methodologies of the former but indeed undermine those of the latter. As a result, in the same economic-commercialized world, natural and social sciences have developed along rational-scientific line properly and steadily, while human sciences have radically been deviated from the ideal rational-scientific orientations, which are defined by their accordance with related realities and truths about anthropological or historical affairs. However, the obvious divergence concerning two types of scientific practices have been widely neglected with an implicit reason that natural sciences and technology should go more and more along the rational-scientific line while the humanities should continue going along the “liberal” line, which is naturally disconnected from the scientific operations; accordingly, the former should enjoy their ever-stronger power of knowledge while the latter should be satisfied at the lack of such power of knowledge. The notion of “knowledge” is here certainly referred to the rational-scientific type rather than the literary-artistic type. For the latter can never produce positively intellectual guidance and rationally triggering power with respect to deep and precise understanding of human political-historical and social-cultural situations and to effectively obtained availability of correct methods for bettering human fortunes. After all, the requested rational knowledge concerning historical-social-political affairs of mankind shouldn’t be mixed with any irrational wisdom expressed by poetic fantasies or aesthetic enjoyments!


1.2 The confluence of pan-commercialism with the post-modernist epistemological deviation of the humanities from scientific orientation


The judgment made above is first of all due to the innate weak-points of the humanities as such, intellectual objects of which are related, simply speaking, to the non-physical modes of realities and especially to the phenomena concerning the non-physically defined objects such as mind, value, faith, action and history. All such phenomena about human situations are lacking in objective or externally fixed criteria as the definite norms and standards for measuring validity and efficiency in connection with related scholarly practices. That also means that the actually used criteria in the humanities become more easily manipulated or controlled by non-scholarly powers for all kinds of non-scientific purposes. Either modern natural sciences or modern social sciences share an epistemological advantage that they can naturally maintain their own scientific orientations because those sciences have simply to be ultimately in accordance with certain objective realities or referents, which can logically guarantee and stabilize their scientific-objective orientations and effectively arrange their scientific practices to undergo the empirical-positive tests or exams. While the humanities, as the liberal arts lacking in such objective references, are understandably liable to be under the sway of not only various ideological powers but also some arbitrarily “creative liberty” or irrational fantasies. In other words, expanded conceptual devices or a variety of “discursive rhetoric” without reference to any external objectivity can be preferably used for any purely profitable aims. The scholarly discourses of the humanities could be easily taken as any kind of invented verbal media and techniques whose acceptability and utility mainly depend on whether they can produce any intellectual, mental or psychological attractions to or effects on audience, reading public, and especially on whether they could win the approval of institutionalized academic authorities. The latter must exist in and are authorized by the social-cultural-academic power-mechanisms, which are operatively further related to the academic marketing. Such a discursive rhetoric in the verbal-textually modes, even since modern times, has gradually intruded into humanity-theoretical domains. Therefore the rhetoric devices of various kinds can become the mere tools for being artistically and ideologically manipulated to produce certain persuasive effects, which can even cause a feigned impression on the more suitable and more desirable way of expressing and reasoning for the humanities. The verbal modes of theoretical rhetoric as tools for organizing discursive texts in the humanities would present a commonly used vehicle for stimulating collectively acceptable, quasi-scientific/quasi-poetically blended ways of thinking. The basic reason for the operative efficiency of this epistemological ambiguity is in part due to the existence of historically shaped, habitually used, and semantically uncertain “generic concepts” employed in the humanities, such as reality, fact, confirmation, positivity and even scientism. Besides, the conceptual ambiguity is especially caused even by the arbitrary usage of the term “rationality” it self shared by all natural, social and human sciences alike. Even until today, particularly in Anglo-American analytic perspective, some people are get used in thinking that there is only one reasonable type of scientific standard and logical validity as provided by mathematics and natural sciences. Therefore scholars tend to think of scientific problems concerning human affairs simplistically also according to the ways of natural sciences. Or, reversely, people with oppositional position tend to deal with theoretical problems concerning human affairs just according to the anti-scientific ways. That is one of the main reasons why and how pan-rhetoric-styled epistemology of the humanities today can be so much influential in irrationally organizing discourses of the humanities. The same reason can explain why human sciences, out of their constitutional nature, in their academic practices, tend more easily to give in the attraction and pressure exercised by the commercial Establishment. The compositional mixture of contents of the humanities is only one aspect of reasons leading to their theoretical deviation from scientific orientation; the other aspects are connected to both the social and the subjective dimensions. As we point out above, universal professionalization in academia has become yet the expedient vehicle by which pan-commercializing power can exercise their indirect control and direct pressures over scholarly culture of the humanities. Another related aspect of the reasons, even the more fundamental one, is linked to the contemporary decay of subjective-spiritual strength under the pan-technological historical conditions; or simply, a general disappearance of ethical volition of subjectivity living in the totally legalized or objectively regulated societies. In fact, the foremost co-effect of technicalized mentality and social-institutionalized professionalization has consistently led to the general deterioration of ethical subjectivity, which is characterized by the characteristically weakening of spontaneous will of the individual who can only behave following externally regulated norms and rules, and the derived consequence then leads to a typical utilitarian way of life in the post-modern era. With respect to the weakened or lost ethical subjectivity in postmodern times scholarly agents must more easily succumb to the instinctive desires for materialized profits and social publicity in academia, society and culture. Consequently, these three main reasons can function together in causing the degeneration of scientific-creative potential in present-day human sciences. In essence the humanities scholars, especially their theoretical practitioners, with an ethical-impotent mentality, are inclined to yield to or give up the requested intrinsic resisting-strength to both the social pressures from academic professionalization and to the instinctive materialist lust for pure profits and the academic power.


Therefore the humanities as platform for creating and expressing liberal arts could have become the convenient grounds on which the persuasive tools of theoretical rhetoric could be more easily produced. Such kind of theoretical rhetoric do not need to be connected to objective- scientific references so long as it effectively functions as any practically desirable and professionally profitable means to be used to charm or attract audience or readers, who are of the same inclination determined by the same intellectual-professional conditions eventually rooted in academic-cultural marketing. Accordingly the academic-professional orientation and quality of the humanities could be mainly determined by the rhetoric-persuasive efficiency of arbitrarily and profitably chosen theoretical-styled devices in the humanities rather than by the traditionally cherished wishes for approaching scientific truth or objective realities. It is widely known that certain post-modernist epistemology has even intentionally strengthened this scholarly-intellectual nihilist extremism since the appearance of the so-called post-structuralist trend, which was generally characterized by its opposition to the scientific-positivist interest of structuralism. No doubt, when the humanities are weakening their scientific tendency or scholars are intensifying their motivation for exclusively seeking professional profits, the humanity-scholarship would easily tend to take the feasible rhetoric devices as the favorable way for uniquely pursuing their professional success.


1.6  The multiply unanimous tendencies of different kinds of academic ideological powers leading to obstructing the scientific development of the humanities


It’s quite understandable that the domineering intellectual power of instrumentalist rationality in science-technology united with cultural commercialism in current postmodern civilization  doesn’t care about problems concerning scientific quality and the rational potential in the humanities. On the other hand, however, only with a stronger and more applicable rationality human sciences are able to carry out scientific-directed scholarly practices and to be used to deal with effectively problems about a great number of serious mundane questions facing mankind. Because, in spite of their historically weaker capability for organizing rational way of thinking, the humanities remain to be the only available grounds on which a mountain of complicated causal/axiological-related problems could be reasonably expected for gaining solutions, especially those about meaning, value and faith. In effect, only the scientific-rational ways of thinking are capable of being applied for effectively examining, meaningfully doubting, seriously challenging or, at least, more intelligibly reflecting those challenging issues concerning the higher ethical justification and more desirable ways of human life in confrontation with the absolute domination of the technical-commercialized culture of the world. Regarding the saying “knowledge is force”, this knowledge can only be rational in nature and this force can only mean the correct causal and proper evaluative ways of reasoning; by contrast, the less-scientific-rationally directed knowledge can hardly be able to effectively judge or solve the more significant issues occurring at historical, social, cultural or intellectual dimensions in our so much complicated postmodern times. That is one of reasons why we assert that the post-modernist philosophy, which explicitly maintains either irrational or extreme relativist positions, and dogmatic scientistic philosophy, which deals with human affairs according to simplistically quasi-natural-scientific approaches, actually shares an essentially anti-intellectualism in the post-modern societies so as to joinedly curb the genuine scientific-rational development of human sciences. (Both of the postmodernist and dogmatic-scientist trends even commonly reject the justified identity of the multi-disciplinary title “human sciences”) Accordingly, on one hand, cultural creations in mass communities turn to be more and more sensually entertaining by nature in accordance with the present-day shallow mindset and superficial tastes of one-dimensional-educated majority of all pan-technicians. And on the other, the global cultural conditions of Trinity-Establishment, which consists of commercialism, natural sciences and technology, would not be confronted with any strong critical-reflective challenge at serious ethical and epistemological levels. That’s because any significant rational-critical thought about axiological-epistemological problems can only be produced from the scientifically advanced human sciences. Accordingly commercial-technological powers would like, perhaps unconsciously, to see that the limited rational potential of the humanities would be hopefully made impotent, so losing any effective critical strength in face with social-cultural realities; or, the humanities would be transformed into something like spiritual cultivation only or mere intellectual-aesthetic games. That’s why we may regard the post-modernist philosophical strategy, which holds these positions by dint of various rhetorically feigned theoretical devices, as the typical philosophy of the present postmodern technological-commercialism.


In addition to the above analysis, we should also pay an attention to another subtle ambiguity about the concept “spiritual life” of mankind. The above multiply joined inclination against the rational-scientific development of the humanities should also include another kind of its traditional cooperators--- all transcendent powers that would like to accept sciences and technology but only oppose a rational-theoretical-directed humanities. In turn the technical-commercialized Establishment indicates the same cooperative attitude. As the rational-scientific-directed practices they can also be willing to accept the implicitly collaborative role of those transcendent-metaphysical-directed intellectual powers. So they tend to be satisfied with a new bifurcation between the material and the spiritual: the former belongs to this world and the latter can be put aside for another world; this is, the technological and the transcendent powers can realize an effective ideological collaboration. The latter could be seemingly made to be a ready alternative of the spiritual dimension for this world and the fact is tantamount to that no special spiritual dimension concerning this world is seriously needed as before. The mutual compatibility between the worldly empirical- scientific-technological rationality and the transcendent a-scientific spiritual rationality of all kinds brings about the silently joined effects in weakening or neglecting human efforts at empirical-rational advancement of mundane human sciences. Furthermore, as we will discuss later, this heterogeneously intellectual collaboration will more imperiously involve the quasi-scientific transcendental component of the humanities— that metaphysical tradition, which will share this general tendency for obstructing the scientific development of the humanities from inside. As a result, the commercial-technological civilization, together with various kinds of postmodern ideological trends, can make the materialist-directed intellectual way of thinking the singly authoritative cultural-ideological orientation in this world.


1.4 The literary-artistic-styled humanities and the scientific-directed human sciences: a necessity for segregating the divergent intellectual inclinations in the same historical-shaped professional field of the humanities


But on the other hand, there has been always intellectual passion and strength expressed in pursuing rational-scientific practices within social-human scholarships. The impulse and thrust of the humanities for advancing scientific rationality are not only due to common scientific curiosity about deeper understanding human affairs but also due to the revived mind, which is faced with the objectively existent challenge and gets aware that the spiritual orientation of human civilizations should not be completely guided by the commercial-instrumental rationality and humanity cannot take the searching for materialist satisfactions, or universal consumerism, as the unique life-goal in this world. The critical consciousness is especially focused on the following basic ethical problem: The commercial-technical systems should be taken as the mere material instruments used for attaining a spiritually more valuable or more noble way of mundane life.


The above highly significant epistemological-ethical issues are related to the general definitions of criteria and standards concerning different axiological notions such as right-wrong, good-bad, moral-immoral, mundane happiness and supernatural bliss, etc. The traditional divergence of axiological conceptions involved has led to the general division between the scientific-rational and non-scientific-irrational ways of thinking. Under the present-day conditions of globalization the general consensus regarding those notions becomes more obviously impossible, and accordingly the derived ethical-epistemological divergence will certainly cause the constant disorder of understandings, faiths and behaviors among different peoples and nations. This kind of rational-critical scientific attitude has been just what we have perceived in the original semiotic movement. On the other hand, as we know, post-modernist theoretical trends adopt the contrary positions that can be also traced back to intellectual history. Therefore the traditional split or tension between the two divergent intellectual directions in the humanities could have been more sharply grasped nowadays. In some sense the original spiritual impulse expressed in the early contemporary semiotic movement indeed indicates such positive-scientific inclination. Mixed in part by the traditional compositional-ambiguous humanities modern semiotic practices have, however, unavoidably continued suffering from this historical-transmitted semantic-confusing “original sin”. It is natural that the valuable rational-spiritual passion has been either disturbed by the traditionally inherited epistemological ambiguity of philosophical fundamentalism, including both its dogmatic metaphysics and ontological nihilism, or by artistic-imaginative aestheticism. Thus in fact all the time we have been faced with a basic mixture of the academic conceptions contained in the humanities.


As a matter of fact, there exist two kinds of intellectual practices with respect to the humanities in history: one as liberal way of doing artistic-like creations amounts to the traditionally transmitted pan-literary works whose intellectual nature really looks like that of “liberal arts” originating in remote ancient time when intellectual life was still primitive; the other, as human sciences, has been since modern times shaped to strengthen the scientific function of the traditional humanities. When the humanities had been regarded only as the means used for general cultivation and spiritual enjoyment what we raise here are irrelevant; but when the traditional humanities have been taken as the grounds for constructing human sciences the inherited intellectual split become the relevant obstruction to be overcome.


As a matter of fact, however, the humanities in all times have suffered from similar shortcomings with respect to problems of scientific truth, and it is indeed in our times we have had the better conditions to substantially advance the level and quality of scientific studies in the humanities, which have been now hopefully advanced to the human sciences. Besides the weakness and shortcomings characteristic of the humanities, we should further point out that these weakness and shortcomings have just become the very origins and reasons of the consequences that the humanistic discourses have easily been arbitrarily and intentionally misused to serve a variety of non-academic, profit-gaining as well as ideological aims. Originally the primitive natural sciences, such as ancient astrology and witch doctor, had been also used in similar way. But after their maturation the discourses of natural sciences can no longer technically misused that way again. The close historical connections between the humanities, political ideologies and social disasters could be the added reason to remind us of a necessity for paying a serious attention to the modernization of human sciences, because it is only in our new era we are intellectually and technically more capable of solving the problems and effectively facing the historical challenge.


For this purpose, we should first reconsider the identity and function of philosophy as a traditional discipline within the current humanities; namely the above intellectual division should be connected with all related disciplines, especially including its leading constituent part—philosophy. On the whole, the non-scientific-directed philosophical practices in the humanities consist of two types: the metaphysical-ontological and irrational-aesthetic. Regarding literature and history, the intellectual divergence is more complicatedly related to the division between the argumentative and creative. Considering the historically shaped situation of the traditional ambiguity of the humanities and the present-day scientific requests concerning developing human sciences, we have reasons to assert that the traditional big field of the humanities should be divided into two parts in future: the scientific-scholarly and quasi-artistic practices. Accordingly, regarding the central discipline philosophy, there could be also the artistic-directed philosophical thinking and the scientific-directed thinking in the same historically shaped field “philosophy”. In terms of this division we are able on principle to avoid the constitutive confusion concerning scholarly practices of the humanities in general and semiotics in particular. In any case, the artistic-styled practices in the traditional humanities are no longer allowed to epistemologically be mixed with the scientific-directed practices in human sciences.


As we know very well, so many ancient philosophers just call their philosophizing job the scientific efforts in character, indicating a potential rationalist tendency that had been non the less blocked by the restriction of ancient knowledge in general. The increased scientific-directed tendency displayed in the modern humanities is on one hand a current actualization of the classical-scientific way of thinking expressed in ancient philosophy and on the other a consequence of conceptual impact of modern developed natural and social sciences on the entire field of the humanities. This consequence indicates the arrival of a new intellectual era: human beings today require a multiple-typed advancement of rationality with respect to those non-objective-referential concepts such as value, faith, action and will in our post-modern era. It is understood simply that under the present-day commercializing period anthropological or human-historical knowledge in general must also advance and enrich its own special type of rationality in confrontation with the powerfully domination of the instrumental rationality shared by science, technology and commercialization. That means the narrowly-defined conception of scientificity cannot be used to replace the currently requested version of scientificity especially pertinent to modern human sciences. On the other hand, any post-modernist-directed nihilist ontology tends naturally or intentionally to weaken the requested scientific-directed rationality of human sciences. These two different kinds of the humanities have their own right for existence in professional and intellectual fields today, nevertheless they must be also separated clearly from each other without being continuously mixed together. In other words, the artistic-like creations and the scientific-like studies belong to different intellectual categories in connection with the same general title “the humanities”. That’s why we may simply affirm that the scientific-directed part of the humanities can and should eventually turn to be a scientifically reformed and elaborated field that should be especially named by human sciences.


Practically speaking, however, following the recent high-developed professionalization in academia and educations, the mixed modes in scholarly directions respectively indicating the scientific and the liberal inclinations in the humanities are protected to maintain the pragmatic-profitable situations. Then there emerge another kind of epistemological mixture involved: each side can take the other side as its own “material” or “object” to be used according to respectively different strategies; namely, the artistic one can take the scientific discourses as the material used for artistic creations and the scientific one can take the artistic discourses as the material or objects used for studying scientifically. Under this same general heading term exist two different kinds of intellectual operations. Semiotic analysis should keep the fact in mind clearly to keep a self-consistent way of thinking in dealing with our subjects. Regarding the liberal-artistic-directed practices we should note that the humanities as liberal arts emerge two times or function at the two levels: the same material (such as texts or media) can be either as the content of artistic creations or as the object of scientific studies. From a functional point of view they can be of course distinguished, but on the other hand the two divergent inclinations can also mixedly appear in the same practice carried out by one person such as in the case, to say, works by Roland Barthes. Yes, one person can be scientist and artist at the same time but the fact doesn’t reject another fact that the two kinds of operations in one project could be still made separate at functional level. We should make the two modes of intellectual practices further clearly segregated in our epistemological consideration. The co-appearance of mixed and separated performances in professional practices of the humanities shouldn’t make our theoretical analysis confused. No doubt, semiotic analysis is just apt at distinguishing different functional dimensions of textual presentations.


In addition, regarding the scientific-directed theoretical practices of the humanities and semiotics we should pay an attention to another more confusing issue about what is the proper form of the scientific-way of thinking? It is the current development of semiotic way of thinking that raises and attempts to solve the problem at a more elaborated epistemological-methodological level that we will discuss latter again. The interdisciplinary direction of semiotic way of thinking launches a historically unprecedented reflection on the basic conception of theoretical foundation in human sciences. Historically, the answer has been always given to philosophy or its central parts: metaphysics and ontology. Since the start of modern scientific movement and origin of modern social sciences this privilege of “first theory” has also given in turn to different scientific disciplines such as physics, biology, sociology, linguistics, historical theory and even recognition sciences characteristic of current American theoretical preference. In terms of current semiotic theorizing characterized by its interdisciplinary orientation any established single-disciplinary-centralism cannot be taken as the justified theoretical foundation for multiple theoretical practices in connection to all other human sciences or for interdisciplinary-theoretical semiotics. Any departmental-central theory is certainly the useful source used in organizing all kinds of theoretical developments, but cannot be taken as a logical foundation for those multiply synthetic theoretical scholarships in human sciences and general semiotics.


What we discuss above indicates that on one hand there has existed a historically long-standing split between the scientific and the artistic inclinations in the humanities and on the other there emerges a relational problem between the mixed mode of the humanities and academic factors produced in the commercialized multi-Establishment. It is this epistemological relationship between the two aspects that further stimulates a necessity for advancing the rational ability of scientific practices in the humanities. Accordingly we can know how deeply and widely problems of the scientific modernization of the humanities or human sciences are connected with the thought about more deeply and widely understanding human conditions and about the desirable perspective in human future. And the crucial methodological steps for approaching this goal can only be performed and pushed forward by applied semiotics of different disciplines as well as by general semiotics concerning the entire humanities. That’s why we first of all should consider the more effective ways to reorganize our theoretical analysis of applied and general semiotics.



2. A necessary reclassification of semiotic practices performed at different epistemological levels in confrontation of global cultural-academic commercialism


2.1 A suggested redefinition of semiotics for expanding and deepening its scientific goal for modernizing human sciences


The formation of modern semiotics and related contemporary semiotic movement has risen basically from a traditional rational tendency towards scientific modernization of the humanities. In fact the official title of “human sciences” initially emerged in France almost simultaneously with the post-war contemporary semiotic movement, indicating that the two phenomena originates in the joined wishes and requests for advancing scientific ways of thinking in the traditional humanities. As part of the modern humanities or human sciences semiotics has been naturally engaged in the similar historical-objectively mixed situations and conditions in its practices. But originally as the scientific-scholarly other than the liberal-creative practices, the main semiotic-scholarly mode characterized by its constitutive mixture implicitly presents another type of intellectual labor-division that is expressed in a bifurcation between the scientific-theoretical and the practical-applicative scholarships. In essence, however, the two types of compositional mixture discussed here and in last section are interconnected with each other because of the original blending of historical scholarship and intellectual practices concerning historical and cultural experiences. This original dualism of scholarly practices has gradually developed into two divergent categories of semiotic studies: the general-theoretical semiotic and the compartmental-applied semiotic ones.


The simplest definition of semiotics is usually expressed by the studies of signs. The central term “sign” with quite divergent senses has become an effectively expedient organizer for unifying different types of scholarly practices in the collective academic-spiritual drives, but this all-embracing, specialized term initially formed also becomes the main cause leading to the various epistemological ambiguities in contemporary semiotic scholarships. Different international scholars, out of various convenient reasons, commonly adopt this same historically transmitted terminal tool with a collective aim to expediently realize and promote an intellectual-academic movement; nevertheless, the original conceptual ambiguity caused by various daily flexible usages of the word has naturally led to the inconsistent, even mutual-conflicting theoretical positions expressed within the same semiotic movement. For example, a sign-central semiotic dogmatism has been especially indicated by so many efforts at attempting vainly to “unify” different theoretical systems respectively given by Pierce and Saussure.


Considering the richly developed situation of semiotic practices, as I recommend before , the traditional definition of semiotics as studies of signs should be expanded to those about semantic-communicative instrumental mechanisms which certainly include all kinds of sign studies in addition to other related semantic/communicative-analytical issues. In consideration of the actual situations and ideal desirability concerning semiotic activities, semiotics should not be restricted or narrowly normalized by the semantically simplified, single-word-conceptual entities such as signs, symbols and the similar daily-used terms at levels on which they often appear in natural-perceived phenomena.

Certainly, natural sciences started from this naturally perceptible level long time ago, but they have already long time ago been elaborated to different abstract levels; while certain social-human sciences organized at the behaviorist level today attempt to still insist in the  primitive, natural-perceivable grade for organizing their scientific way of observation and  thinking.


In terms of the expanded sense, semiotics should desirably refer to a variety of semantic-constitutional and pragmatic-communicative chains of various relationships as well as to other institutional aspects concerned. In fact there has been hardly one single scientific discipline called semiotics by which a great number of different types of semiotic studies can be reasonably unified in a logical-organized conceptual system. In effect, strictly speaking, semiotic practices are neither implemented in a single theoretical discipline called “general semiotics” nor in various disciplines named with “applied semiotics”.  Instead, they are implemented in multiple cross-boundary zones of different established disciplines through a variety of interdisciplinary procedures. The intellectual reasons and pragmatic convenience of this customary usage, in addition to the direct factor that the original semiotic thinkers in the modern movement happened to use the same words with various semic compositions in their different epistemological-operative frames, does lie in a practical overlapping areas of the scientific systematic and the academic-operative aspects during its developing processes. Or, simply, it is a blending between the discipline understood as the scientific-conceiving system and the discipline understood as the academic-organizing system. If the blending of usages of the same terms is indeed beneficial for promoting simultaneously the expansionist ambition of academic-professional activities and the scientific development during the initial period of the movement, it could turn to be an obstructive cause for further positive or productive advancement of the related scientific goals. That could be the case with the present embarrassing situations facing us. In other words, the term “discipline” can be associated either with its scientific-epistemological aspects or with its academic-organizing aspects. Moreover, the two angles of views, in terms of the intellectual contexts of the semiotic movement, are still respected in the current popular situations concerning semiotic studies. Nevertheless, there is still another more important perspective in the discussions, this is that the semiotic ways of thinking are also implicitly linked to a highly desirable task about the comprehensive reorganization of the traditional humanities; while this much more expanded and deepened task can hardly be handled by means of either one of the above mentioned two approaches prevailing in the movement at present.


For example, commonly used “applied semiotics” mostly means the studies or analysis of materials contained in regular disciplines by means of “semiotic approaches”. In light of this vantage view, any disciplinary elements associated with the common term “sign” or its like could be conveniently called certain semiotic practice. While here the sign-data only refer to the object, rather than to the method, of that semiotic project mentioned. And any application of chosen methods in the projects can only be completed in combination with various other interdisciplinary elements. Clearly, we shouldn’t simplistically, or even misleadingly, apply the single term representing the scientific object of researches as the title to represent the more expanded projects with multi-semantic-scholarly dimensions and operations. The possibly more suitable criteria for choosing an effective title for some scholarly practices should be that concerning scientific procedures. Differently from the situations of other regular disciplines, whose titles are set by extensional parameters, the substantial scope of the object of semiotics is not something referred to the sign or similar, but rather to much more variegated parts consisting of various kinds of relational connections, in which signs are only one individual constituent part. In this sense, for example, it is even dangerous to attempt to use the term sign as the generic concept merely because of the original conceptual mixture caused by the same term commonly used by Saussure and Pierce respectively. For the former, sign refers to items existing at the pre-substantial linguistic structures, while for the latter, it refers to the units collected from logical and natural-scientific phenomena. The usually vain efforts at theoretically unifying the two kinds of signs are firstly caused by the arbitrarily fixing the corresponding link between word and meaning in contemporary semiotic movement. Or, interpreted alternatively, the same word “sign” has been agreeably used by different schools as a conceptual tool for expediently unifying various scholarly practices for the sake of artificially pushing forward an academic expansionism. Semiotics is implying too great spiritual significance to be applied in so simplistic way.


On the other hand, however, without paying a strict attention to the precise definition of “sign”, semiotic players can be free to organize any kind of combinative devices involving the term “sign” in their different practices. Thus, not less frequently we see (especially in the areas where semiotics has just been introduced for a short period or strongly driven by a superficial mania for profitable fashions) everything in the world could be easily called a “sign” for the sake to exaggeratingly hint a widest applicability of the concept! As a result, the popularized and vulgarized term “sign” today finds a further more popularity in the commercialized cultural-academically competitive context. Such a scholarly tactic and style realized by manipulating the single-term could be further strongly controlled by some powerful non-academic apparatus in the current academic and cultural contexts. Therefore scientific exactitude of semiotic-interdisciplinary application definitely depends on the using ways of the term sign and related semiotic approaches. This pragmatic secret in current semiotic movement can be further perceived and disclosed after cross-cultural semiotics arises, just for the reason that the latter have been still scientifically low-trained. Nonetheless, the persistence of this conceptual confusion in semiotic praxis has been habitually or intentionally neglected by the collective professional utilitarianism under the present ever-increasingly intensified and expanded commercial-consumerist contexts: the single term “sign” is regarded as the most convenient brand for unlimitedly expanding the professional territory in academic competition. Nevertheless, a direct result of the trend lies in lowering the scientific quality of current semiotic movement itself.


2.2       A renewed reflection on nature and function of semiotics in contexts of professional- profitable utilitarianism and inherited intellectual-historical dogmatism


As a matter of fact, the most widely recognized and really influential semiotic achievements for the past 60 years are those appearing in various major established disciplines. In other words, semiotic achievements are not the results produced within a new single discipline called “semiotics”. This categorical distinction emphasized here is intended to avoid a categorical confusion frequently shown in the current more and more strengthened tendency of professional collective-protectionism and commercialized competitive-individualism in the humanities and semiotics. Such a professional utilitarian-motivated academic tendency is intended to make an easily manipulated operative-ground for joining professional competition. Therefore semiotics scholars are inclined to practically build up a single discipline called “semiotics” which can be professionally separated from other disciplines in order to become a comfortably handled academic autonomy for profitably securing their professional-competitive capability. For this purpose the tendency will naturally exaggerate its own well-founded disciplinary identity in distinction with all other academic disciplines in the competitive academic marketplace. As a result such a tendency must lead the current semiotic movement to decreasing its genuinely scientific attention to its cooperative willing with the other related theoretical sources of all major disciplines. The tendency of this intentionally wishful self-segregation from the theoretical sources of other main disciplines will naturally shape a special semiotic-operative framework in accordance to academic-competitive marketing that would seriously weaken the scientific and theoretical potential of semiotic-theoretical practices. The true productive energy of the latter can only be kept and developed in the interdisciplinary-directed theorizations.


Let’s review the examples about those contemporary successful semiotics scholars. In my speech given in the Nanjing IASS Congress 2012 I maintained that in general there are three major types of thinking about “sign” around the turn of the twenty century: Saussure’ s linguistic sign, Pierce’ s natural sign and Husserl’ s psychological-logical sign.  All of them have become, in different periods and to different extents, the sources of contemporary semiotic ways of thinking. For the sake of maintaining a categorical precision, we’d better avoid directly naming those “semiotic sources” as the genuine founders of modern semiotics movement. In terms of the established disciplinary compartmentalization we’d better still say that Saussure’ s scholarship belongs to theoretical linguistics, Pierce’ s one to a natural-directed pragmatic-logic philosophy, and Husserl’ s to an introspective-directed psychological-logical philosophy. More precisely, as I suggested before, the academic-operative term “semiotics” should refer to the applications of those semiotic-theoretical-related approaches to different humanity-disciplines. Accordingly the identity of semiotics should be exactly defined by certain special descriptive and analytic procedures in connection with both the analytical approaches and the analyzed materials; this is, semiotics refers to the procedural relationship linking to those original theoretical sources and different established disciplinary fields. The proper operative grounds of departmental semiotics just refer to those established regular disciplines, rather than to a newly created independent discipline called “semiotics”. In the light of this, the formation of contemporary semiotic movement has been mainly realized in different semiotic-related regular disciplines such as: cultural anthropology represented by Levi-Strauss, theoretical sociology represented by different European-Anglo-American leading sociologists, linguistic semantics represented by Greimas and many others, literary theory represented by Barthes and many others, philosophy represented by Foucault, Althusser, Derrida, Ricoeur and many others, film theory represented by Metz and many others, psychoanalysis, represented by Freud and Lacan, etc. Certainly, a more obvious indication just lies in the fact that most works finished in contemporary semiotic movement have been performed in the so-called “applied semiotics”, that means the special-semiotic operations are implemented in different existent disciplines with different theoretical and practical characters. Once again, on principle, the essential object of “semiotics” should refer to the interactional relationship of the bi-or-multi parts. In essence we may conclude that the valuable interdisciplinary-theoretical contributions of those semiotic masters are expressed in their creative combinative-practices between significant subject matters and the related semiotic-theoretical tools formed at epistemological-methodological levels. From an interdisciplinary perspective, firstly those semiotic masters have chosen epistemologically and methodologically more significant theoretical instruments to treat the chosen significant subject matters on the basis of their respective disciplinary grounds. Their semiotic contributions are firstly characterized by their higher theoretical insights displayed at both theoretical and substantial levels, which make their achievements far from being the mere formalist games. Furthermore, such kind of epistemological-original creations indicate that those different types of semiotic practices can hardly be unified by a professionally defined “general semiotics” that functions as some philosophical-like foundation or the logical origins. In a word, the traditional philosophical-fundamentalism, or, more primitively, the remote ancient single-causal logicism, both of which emerged in western civilization, must be critically given up today just because of the up-date semiotic-theoretical developments also currently emerging in the West.


2.3 The interdisciplinary essence of semiotic practices and semiotics at its general and applied levels


Thus far we should recognize a self-contradiction could be involved in our understandings of and our operations with semiotic professions and studies of general semiotics. With respect to usages of general semiotics the philosophical-fundamentalist-typed general semiotics and the interdisciplinary-directed ones are oppositional with each other from an epistemological point of view. Philosophy as the source for theoretical-semiotic elaboration is one thing and philosophy as the fundamentalist basis for supporting semiotic theorizing is another thing. This epistemological ambiguity expressed in semiotic scholarships basically due to the misunderstood relationship between the traditional humanities and modern semiotics. Consequently scholars of general semiotics based on traditional philosophical-central prejudice neglect the fact that the interdisciplinary tendency of semiotics is theoretically just characterized by its anti-philosophical-centrism. As a theoretical-revolutionary device modern semiotics has originated in breaking-through the traditional bondage of philosophy-centrism as well as the old rigidified frames of the humanities.


The above discussion can be further divided into two parts in the following. This interdisciplinary tendency can be either displayed in boundary-overlapping zones of multiple disciplines or only in a single field of one discipline. They are two different types of interdisciplinary operations: the one on an interweaved or overlapped ground composed by different disciplines and the other in a field of single discipline. They are divergent by different scales of interdisciplinary operations, different operational grounds and different types of operative combinations between practical-theoretical or concrete-abstract aspects.


With respect to different types of interdisciplinary semiotic practices, we are influenced by different criteria of judgments. On one hand, practically speaking, we could follow any professional requests with related academic-institutionally justified reasons; and on the other hand, theoretically speaking, we could need to be connected with the higher, expanded scientific-theoretical tasks and therefore go beyond single-disciplinary-theoretically institutionalized norms for organizing larger range of interdisciplinary practices in the entire humanities. If so, we should distinguish between two kinds of justified standard in reference to two different scholarly-epistemological levels. In terms of the two academic categories their respective theoretical requests are naturally different in reference to their respective goals, motivations, practical scales, performing levels, and scientific-operative precisions and depths.


The above conclusion concerning general semiotics can be further explained in the following. The problematic of semiotic development or semiotic orientation, which has been discussed so widely for the past decades, is therefore reasonably related to that combinational relationship between all semiotic methodologies and various regular disciplines. Therefore the concept general semiotics should refer to synthetic-scholarly practices to be implemented within various regular disciplines. In result, general semiotics in this special sense must be closely related to and cooperative with various regular disciplines. From a theoretical point of view, really meaningful general semiotics cannot live in disconnection with various disciplinary theoretical practices in the humanities. The achievements represented by those masters of theoretical-semiotics mentioned above become in fact the basic theoretical references for us, with which we can better organize our semiotic-theoretical projects. Or, we may assert without exaggeration that without these kinds of concrete scientific achievements contemporary semiotic movement could hardly be launched. The great successes in contemporary semiotic movement are mainly due to the concrete interdisciplinary creations realized in different disciplines, rather than due to the guiding of different general semiotics despite their respective important theoretical endeavors. Because, on one hand, this kind of general semiotics is in part only the possible theoretical sources for various applied semiotics and, on the other, they are also the temporary preparative stages for promoting an enlarged and advanced type of theoretical elaboration in the semiotic movement; all theoretical achievements under the title of “general semiotics” should keep their flexible openness to the content and level in reference to the entire semiotic-strategic horizon and accumulated experiences. By the way, we may once again emphasize that the formation of contemporary semiotic movement is essentially due to those epistemological-methodologically created fruits on a variety of interdisciplinary levels and combinations. In spite of significant contributions of several related philosophical schools as the intelligent or inspirational sources for the formation of modern theoretical semiotics, nevertheless, the establishment of contemporary semiotic movement has nothing to do with those types of general semiotics that are based on certain philosophical-fundamentalism.


Therefore the interdisciplinary-directed semiotics can be interpreted as the multiple theoretical-relational studies. The category “applied semiotics” refers indeed to a scholarly combination between semiotic methods and regular disciplines, but we should here further define the actual referent of this categorical term. By stressing that semiotic theories are the result of semiotic analyses applied to various regular disciplinary theories the involved semiotic practice must be realized at the theoretical dimension of a regular discipline. The application is equivalent to an interaction between two sets of theoretical elements selected from different disciplinary-theoretical sources: the one is a regular discipline and the other is certain epistemological-methodological association of semiotic approaches. Therefore the classical examples of semiotic theories mentioned above indicate some intersectional interactions of theoretical elements in several related disciplines. In this sense all kinds of semiotic practices are applied semiotics; the statement simply means an application of one disciplinary theory to another disciplinary theory, or, just some theoretical interaction between theoretical aspects of two disciplines. Moreover, there are also notions about “different degrees” with respect to the involved applying levels, ranges and depths. From an operational point of view, the term “applied semiotics” may especially refer to those fewer-theoretical or more-practical projects, and those semiotic projects with higher or more general theoretical character are habitually included into “general semiotics” or “general theoretical semiotics”. In the light of the above discussion we can see there exists flexibility in nomination and usage of categorical titles in semiotic practices.


2.4 A requested labor-division between semiotics-1 and semiotics-2 in current semiotic movement


In terms of the above-mentioned double-constitutive ambiguity in the semiotic movement there are four results involved: 1) philosophical-central general semiotics, 2) interdisciplinary-directed general semiotics, 3) applied semiotics at theoretical level, and 4) applied semiotics at practical level. Among them, 2) and 3) refer to the same objects which tend to be less involved in the collective activities of the semiotic movement because of their closer connection with regular disciplines. As a result, in the organized semiotic movement, 1) and 4), despite their obviously divergent aims and styles, become the main parts involved. The fact naturally present a constitutional incoherence: apparently, 1) provides 4) with theoretical supports while in fact the scholarly connection between the two are quite weak. If so, why such special phenomenon could have been steadily persisted? In terms of its constitutive identity, 1) should work in the regular discipline philosophy as a special type of it while in fact the semiotic philosophers prefer to stay in the field of semiotics. When semiotics is intended to become a single new discipline the incoherence of the two parts looks more remarkable. But on the other hand this incoherent coexistence still implies a practical reason: the both can support each other with what they are lacking in. For 1), the successful achievements of applied semiotic practices of 4) can provide 1) with a solid ground for professional survival; and for 4), the philosophical-theoretical mode can provide it with an impression that the applied semiotic practices seem to indeed have some more serious theoretical basis (this is, with more metaphysical or ontological rhetoric) for indicating their staying at the scientific-theoretical level . The necessity of the latter is mainly due to its gradually disconnection with 3), or with the theoretical practices of those main regular disciplines. By emphasizing that semiotic theory should be the organic part of human sciences we are just directed to the ironically crucial phenomenon about the scientific direction of the semiotic movement. Nevertheless, from a profession-practical point of view, our criterion of judgment is changed as well. This strange organizational coexistence of 1) and 4) can indeed make the two weakly linked parts get more chances for gaining professional interests in the academic market regarding their scholarly goods. As a result, the latter could be extensively encouraged in the rapidly developed commercialized cultural-academic world today.


Based on the above explanation we can see the following related developments. On one hand, this utilitarian-directed semiotic strategy tends to find some newly emerged cultural fields shaped under cultural consumerism, making them as their favored practicing grounds. And on the other hand, for the sake of increasing or enriching its own theoretical profile this semiotic policy tends to rely on some chosen philosophical doctrines as their ready theoretical foundations regardless of the problems about whether their own semiotic practices and the chosen philosophical supports accord with each other or not. Accordingly, some irrelevantly created philosophical-typed discourses would play a mere ornamental role in the semiotic-theoretical formulations especially designed by them within the especially institutionalized context. Obviously, either philosophical or semiotic-theoretical terms can be arbitrarily employed to produce an impression that scholarly discourses are those that are already theoretically treated and therefore taken as some semiotic-theoretical achievements. Unfortunately this kind of different theoretical elements arbitrarily combined in argumentation according to standardized manners can be legally accepted in the present-day rigidified academic institutionalization. No doubt, the latter is basically determined by the artificially achieved professional-technical feasibility rather than by objective scientific criteria.


The most serious impact of cultural commercialism in the postmodern age is expressed in the radically changed mentality of humanity-scholars. Closer to a businessman-like mentality, many humanist-scholars’ view of life and practical attitude today tend to be guided by a pan-utilitarianism, which eventually turns to be motivated by a clear desire for winning professional-profits, which are concretely embodied in higher ranks and lasting honors, in their careers. And also following the businessman’s way they are engaged in organizing educational and academic factions for collectively interest-searching programs and in elaborating prestige-increasing tactics. All of these changes in mental inclinations are conductive to the resultant trends and customs that the humanity-scholars take professional profits rather than scientific truth as their eventual aim in vocational life. Accordingly colleagues living in academic-competitive systems regard each other as rivals or only tactic-cooperating partners rather than as intellectual-inspiring friends. Therefore, the radical mutation in the commercialized academic world has influenced types of personality and character of humanist-scholars with a result of basically changing the orientation of the humanities from inside.


In this respect, semiotic-scholarly organizations could prefer to become an academic autonomy in precaution against any possible theoretical intrusions of other strong well-established disciplines. On the other hand, we certainly have to understand that any kind of scholarly practices has its own practical reason to choose its own favored mode of existing in academic world. Scholarship is not only scientific vocations but also practical ways for living. Nevertheless it is also reasonable that we shouldn’t confuse these two different criteria of scholarly practices in professional life: the one out of more practicable cwisdom and the other out of more scientific idealism. If the term “semiotics” is justified in being used in this professionally profitable way, we will also have a reason to reconstruct another kind of semiotics, which intend to insist in the classical idealism for exploring scientific truth. In terms of the latter, scientific-theoretical semiotics must still be in connection to entire human sciences. In this sense, perhaps a secondary semiotic movement should be designed and established, including an associated redefinition of the modern traditional concept “general semiotics”. The so-called “general semiotics”, or GS-model in my proposed usage, refers to an operative agent for organizing such theoretical interactions of semiotic methodologies and regular disciplinary theories.


However, we should be clear enough to anticipate that professional utilitarianism, principles for establishing academic organizations with a purpose to collectively attain academic-competitive profits, and the related opportunistic-flexibly shaped artistic-expedient usages with applying the special verbal media consisting of theoretical texts in the cultural-commercialized fields, all of these three parts will lead to dangerously weakening the scientific strength of serious applied semiotics as well. So regarding applied semiotics there are two different types of practices: the one refers to those less-theoretical/more-practical-directed scientific projects, which are still seriously performed, and the other could refer to any vulgarized and popularized cultural activities in humanity-academia whose scientific quality can hardly be expected because of their own chosen lower-scientific scholarly-doing ways. But also from a practical point of view, maybe we need to relax our evaluating standard too: not every kind of cultural-scholarly practice must be performed at a higher theoretical level. The current popular anti-grand-theoretical trends in the humanities shaped in the post-Cold-War period can represent a pragmatist spirit against seriously sophisticated theoretical praxis in the fields. This anti-high-theoretical attitude could be just determined by an intensified concern about professional profitability in order to be more suitable for survival under the intensively commercialized academic conditions.


In the light of the above explanation we attempt to point out that contemporary semiotic movement has more and more contained two different sets of scholarly activities, which can be named as semiotics-1 (applied semiotics, which broadly refers to all applied semiotics, including the related theoretical studies, media-productive, and applied artistic kinds of creative jobs) and semiotics-2 (general and theoretical semiotics, with different graded higher theoretical objectives). For the past decades the two parts (applied or practical ones and general-theoretical ones) have been always regarded as something mutual complementary, and general semiotics has been wishfully taken as possible theoretical foundations of applied semiotics. But according to our argumentation this theoretical presupposition is either theoretically or practically unfounded. In fact general semiotics should be something relational between semiotic-theoretical approach and basic disciplinary theories. While theoretical apparatus of applied semiotics can be described as any kind of inter-active practices between semiotic methods and disciplinary elements that do not necessarily belong to the basic theoretical ones of the related disciplines. This tendency for diverging developments becomes more and more realistic and we can see that remarkable development of applied semiotics and popularized semiotics about media-artistic designs are just the fruits made in the more and more intensified cultural-commercialized contexts. When mass-cultural movement gradually intrudes into academic fields since past decades the applied semiotics and technological-artistic semiotic designs almost occupies most part of semiotic practices everywhere today; applied semiotics has been more and more regarded as a professional channel, which has been more and more determined by professional mechanism. On the other hand, the recently less developed scholarship of general semiotics more obviously turns to change its focus: from vainly providing theoretical foundation for applied semiotics, the latter in fact no longer needs some unified theoretical basis as their operatively guiding principles, to further paying an attention to the theoretical developments of the entire humanities. That means, general semiotics should pay a serious attention to strengthening investigations of multiple interaction and collaboration between semiotic-theoretical approaches and various basic disciplinary-theories, especially including philosophical theories. In other words, the task of general semiotics should be directed to serve the general goal of scientific advancement of human sciences. When the latter is expanded to include all non-European-American scholarly traditions this labor-division of semiotic movement becomes not only more suitable but also more urgent, or even absolutely necessary.


No doubt, general semiotics or GS-model will be performed at a much higher theoretical-strategic level than semiotics-1, the latter is turning to be more popularized and more practicable as the part of cultural-academic world rooted in our global commercialized cultural framework. It is clear that most professional semiotic players, who have emerged since the unprecedented leaping-forward in the late 60’s, belong to semiotics-1 and only a small number of semiotic theoreticians, who are simultaneously involved in theoretical studies of various regular disciplines, belong to semiotics-2. As we pointed out before, so-called “semiotics-2” should be neither based on some philosophical fundamentalism nor on any “first theory” of other types; semiotic theory based on interdisciplinary-directed epistemology should be the empirical-reductive rather than the logical-deductive in character. In this case we’d better include them into a new academic category whose true concerns lie in theoretical problems of the entire humanities; or, they are active practitioners engaged in strategic way of thinking about promoting theoretical progress of human sciences. They are far from being a mere semiotic player in a popular sense but being engaged in dealing with multiple theoretical sources including the semiotic one. If the term “semiotics-1”, under the new cultural, technical and academic conditions, really turns to be a new single-discipline as a professional autonomy with its own relatively fixed intellectual scope, intelligent direction, operative procedures and formative identity of collective existence, the term “semiotics-2” would turn to be further separated from this popular tendency of semiotic practices. Instead it will more live in the entire humanities than in professional semiotic movement although it is temporarily still tended to rely on “general semiotics” or certain semiotics-2 in order to conveniently participate in a much larger, higher, and deeper academic strategic goal: to devote itself to the great task of searching for a new unified theoretical perspective of human sciences, which include all historical, cultural and academic traditions in a new era of intellectual globalization.


In terms of this perspective we prefer to use GS-model, which emphasizes its function as the all-round interdisciplinary-organizer, to refer to an expanded sense of semiotics-2. In other words, after one hundred years’ theoretical experiment, “semiotic theory” will have a more acceptable reason to be divided into two parts: the one is mainly connected with theoretical requirement of applied semiotics and the other with semiotics-2 or GS-model, which, beside its strongly interdisciplinary functioning, especially hints that its operative range could be relatively linked to entire human sciences. If the former should more extensively live within the established professional framework, and then the latter needs to go beyond epistemologically the scholarly restrictions of the established professional mechanisms. The changeable tendency has been mainly determined and shaped by the rapidly changed cultural, intellectual and scientific contexts for the past decades. This academic-pragmatic aspect involved is another reason why we need to make this bi-division about semiotic practices or the scholarly practices shared the same title “semiotics”.


Why we still need to alternatively use the term “semiotics 2” to express this ambitious scientific mission with so much higher and broader theoretical horizon? It is just because the title “semiotics” originally linked to those earlier broad-minded thinkers still temporarily provides certain convenient terminal usage implying inter-boundary-directed referential flexibility for us to carry out the great experimental task. Or, in other words, at the moment we still lack another pertinent title for representing this kind of scholarly conceptions and activities. That means, the change of used academic title for semiotics-2 will be possible in future. The GS-model raised by me is just one kind of this attempt.


Owing to the existence of two actual types of scientific praxis a conception of labor division in contemporary semiotic movement is naturally formed now. For semiotics-1, the scientific-collaborative request of certain amount of applied semiotics tends to be unified in their fields, goals, methods, styles and subject matters, which have already become the main stream of the movement. For semiotics-2, despite its partly growing up from the same contemporary semiotic movement, its scientific goal and interest are different from semiotics-1 in that its formation is also determined by the general epistemological and methodological desideratum indicated in all-round theoretical development of current human sciences. Therefore the two kinds of scientific practices are connected to different epistemological and operative levels and ranges although the both are caused by actual scientific-professional requests that are basically divergent by their respectively different goals, perspectives, characters and styles. In other words, this labor division is due to multiple internal and external reasons rather than merely to the natural development of the present semiotic movement. In addition, if semiotics-1 still needs to accept the sign-centrism in their scholarship, semiotics-2 turns to accept a more expanded semantic-analytic mechanism, which is in a sense named by me as a pan-semantic-institutional semiotics, which can be even further reduced to the GS-model conceived as the general reorganizer of interdisciplinary-theoretical-semiotic operations in the humanities.  The GS-model amounts to a redefinition of the meaning of a semiotic-theoretical practice, whose task, goal and approaches should be extensively readjusted to meet with the current existent crucial challenge facing the entire humanities. But our discussion should be stopped here.