First Edition, 1990 available in print.

(See the greatly expanded 2005 Edition.)

By John Deely

"Deely's book, the only successful modern English introduction to semiotics, is a clear, creative, and provocative synthesis of major trends, past and present" -- Thomas A Sebeok, Indiana University (1990)

Notwithstanding books of similar title, this is in fact the only book that traces the subject matter of semiotics, namely, 'semiosis' or the action of signs, to the full extent that Peirce proposed and Poinsot portended. Thus, Deely traces the subject matter of semiotics not only in the cultural realm of human activities, as did semiologists or as in Chandler's work, but in the realm of living things generally, both plant and animal (what Sebeok, and after him Hoffmeyer and Kull, termed "biosemiosis"), and also in the realm of inorganic nature and the processes by which the universe gradually transformed itself from a lifeless whole into a universe capable of supporting life. This is the reason Beuchot noted that 'no other author paints on a canvas so broad', but it is also the reason why this is the only book that currently justifies the claim to outline the basics of semiotics, rather than simply of some particular realm of inquiry within semiotics as a whole.

The last half century has produced an increasing interest in semiotics, the study of signs. As an interdisciplinary field, moreover, semiotics has produced a vast literature from many different points of view. As the discourse has expanded, clear definitions and goals become more elusive. Semioticians still lack a unified theory of the purposes of semoitocs as a discipline as well as a comprehensive rationale for the linking of semiosis at the levels of culture, society, and nature. As Deely suggests in his preface, the image of the modern semiotic universe is the same as that of astronomy in 1611 as suggested by John Donne: "Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone: / All just supply, and all Relation."

This short, cogent, philosophically oriented book outlines and analyzes the basic concepts of semiotics in a coherent, overall framework.

Preface to the First Edition
Thematic Epigraphs
Ch-1   Literary Semiotics and the Doctrine of Signs
Ch-2   Semiotics: Method or Point of View?
Ch-3   Semiotics:
          The Subject Matter of Semiotic Inquiry
Ch-4   Signs: The Medium of Semiosis
Ch-5   Zoosemiotics and Anthroposemiotics
      A. The Content of Experience
      B. Species-Specific Objective Worlds
      C. Species-Specifically Human Semiosis
      D. Conventionality of Signs in Anthroposemeosis
      E. Criticism as the Exploration of Textuality
      F. A Matrix for All the Sciences
      G. A Model for Discourse as Semiosis
      H. Summation
Physiosemiosis and Phytosemiosis
Retrospect: History and Theory in Semiotics
    A. Theory of Semiotics
    B. History of Semiotics
        1.The Ancient World and Augustine
        2 The Latin World
        3 The Iberian Connection
        4 The Place of John Locke
        5 Saussure, Peirce, and Poinsot
        6 Jakob von Uexkull
          John Deely is Professor of philosophy at the Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas (Houston), and author of numerous works on philosophy and semiotics, most recently The Impact on Philosophy of Semiotics (St. Augustine's Press), The Four Ages of Understanding (Toronto), and What Distinguishes Human Understanding (St Augustine's Press).
Copyright 1990 John Deely, all rights reserved.