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Toronto Semiotic Circle Lecture Series

Champagne Lecture: Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs

Dr. Marc Champagne

Department of Philosophy, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

It is often thought that consciousness has a qualitative dimension that cannot be tracked by science. Recently, however, some have argued that this worry stems not from an elusive feature of the mind, but from the special nature of the concepts used to describe conscious states. I propose to draw on the neglected branch of philosophy of signs or semiotics to develop a new take on this strategy.

The term “semiotics” was introduced by John Locke in the modern period, its etymology is ancient Greek, and its theoretical underpinnings are medieval. Charles Sanders Peirce made major advances in semiotics, so he can act as a pipeline for these forgotten ideas. Most philosophers know Peirce as the founder of American pragmatism, but few know that he also coined the term “qualia,” which is meant to capture the intrinsic feel of an experience. Since pragmatic verification and qualia are now seen as conflicting commitments, my work endeavors to understand how Peirce could (or thought he could) have it both ways. The key, I suggest, is to understand how humans can insert distinctions between features that are always bound.

So, while semiotics has until now been the least known branch of philosophy ending in –ics, my goal will be to show how a better understanding of that branch can move one of the liveliest debates in philosophy forward.

This lecture was hosted in partnership with the Department of Philosophy at Ryerson University and organized by the Meaning Lab in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Date & Time

Tue, 17 December 2019

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EST


Ryerson University

80 Gould St.

RCC 204 (Rogers Communications Centre)

Toronto, ON M5B 2M7

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