Pragmatism and the Forms of Sense

Language, Perception, Technics

By (author) Robert E. Innis

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 December 2002

Length of book:

280 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271028392

Making sense of the world around us is a process involving both semiotic and material mediation—the use of signs and sign systems (preeminently language) and various kinds of tools (technics). As we use them, we experience them subjectively as extensions of our bodily selves and objectively as instruments for accessing the world with which we interact. Emphasizing this bipolar nature of language and technics, understood as intertwined "forms of sense," Robert Innis studies the multiple ways in which they are rooted in and transform human perceptual structures in both their individual and social dimensions.

The book foregrounds and is organized around the notion of "semiotic embodiment." Language and technics are viewed as "probes" upon which we rely, in which we are embodied, and that themselves embody and structure our primary modes of encountering the world. While making an important substantive contribution to present debates about the "biasing" of perception by language and technics, Innis also seeks to provide a methodological model of how complementary analytical resources from American pragmatist and various European traditions can be deployed fruitfully in the pursuit of new insights into the phenomenon of meaning-making.

“This is a work of first-rate scholarship and deep-cutting philosophy, replete with important insights and fruitful suggestions. The author brings into sharp focus, above all else, language and what he calls (following Ernst Cassirer) technics by drawing upon diverse traditions—principally the pragmatism of Peirce and Dewey, the phenomenology of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, the work of Cassirer and Langer in the philosophy of symbolism, and that of Bühler and others in linguistics. He shows how these and related phenomena (for example, perception, action, agency, and consciousness) are at once fully embodied and irreducibly symbolic. His explorations of linguistic and other forms of sense ought to be of interest to a wide audience.”

—Vincent Colapietro, Penn State University