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Human Lifeworlds

The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

Edited By David Dunér and Göran Sonesson

This book, which presents a cognitive-semiotic theory of cultural evolution, including that taking place in historical time, analyses various cognitive-semiotic artefacts and abilities. It claims that what makes human beings human is fundamentally the semiotic and cultural skills by means of which they endow their Lifeworld with meaning. The properties that have made human beings special among animals living in the terrestrial biosphere do not derive entirely from their biological-genetic evolution, but also stem from their interaction with the environment, in its culturally interpreted form, the Lifeworld. This, in turn, becomes possible thanks to the human ability to learn from other thinking beings, and to transfer experiences, knowledge, meaning, and perspectives to new generations.
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Sara Lenninger - Chapter Four : Pictures: Perceptions of Realism in the Service of Communication


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Sara Lenninger

Chapter Four

Pictures: Perceptions of Realism in the Service of Communication

Pictures have not evolved as isolated phenomena in human culture, but occupy their place and contribute to changes in the complex and intricate processes we in this book designate as cultural evolution. In this chapter, pictures are discussed as semiotic resources from a perspective of human cultural evolution. The material picture (the picture-thing) is examined both as a perceptual object, and as a communicative resource. An assumption in this chapter is that the discrimination of the picture as a communicative resource had (and may still have) a vital, but also distinct, role in the human endeavour to explore sign relationships. Its distinctiveness does not consist in being the original or the prior semiotic resource in relation to other semiotic resources developed in human communication. Rather, its specific role derives from the combination of visual and communicative meanings employed in pictures, having recourse to the inherent qualities of “natural meaning,” but at the same time not being mere “natural experience.”

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