Regulation feeds corruption

Aesthetic sign processes and aesthetic value

[Ästhetische Zeichenprozesse und der ästhetische Wert] Ästhetik und Semiotik. Tü bingen: G. Narr Verlag, 1981

[Ästhetische Zeichenprozesse und der ästhetische Wert]
Ästhetik und Semiotik. Tü bingen: G. Narr Verlag, 1981
Mihai Nadin, Mü nchen
Semiotics, no matter what type, should be understood primarily as a formal science: it is the logic of vagueness and of continuity. Hence, the epistemological consequences should be taken into consideration even before a type of sign is defined. Mukarovsky, and later Morris, never considered this very important exigency, the first result being the rather inappropriate image of the aesthetic sign they use. Others – there is no use in listing names here – simply adapt a type ofsign.jpg sign, usually the linguistic, to aesthetic reality and try to explain this reality from the perspective implicit in the sign definition they consider. In the history of modern aesthetics, there are few gaps as glaring as the failure of almost all of us to study in any real depth the interplay of the philosophical and scientific components of semiotics in the actual aesthetic object. Or, as our French colleagues see it, semiotics (in their terms, semiologie)is a reason for free variation on the theme of sign, and the results are brilliant compositions, not infrequently belonging to the realm of fiction (I have Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva in mind), or, according to the attempts of several members and fans of the Stuttgart School, semiotics is turned into a puzzle-like exercise in which groups of digits stand for those signs which Peirce, with a real inclination toward poetry, called by names inspired by Old Greek and Latin. In the first case, the philosophical component is abused and the scientific one excluded; in the second, the philosophical foundation is ignored and an ingenious method of sign type notation becomes the object of semiotics. In order to avoid these extremes (presented above in a rather simplified manner), I suggest, before building a possible bridge between semiotics and aesthetics, the following premise-thesis:

  1. Although semiotics was established on the basis of the general definition of the sign and of sign processes, it is always necessary to come back to the particular from the general, to the concrete from the abstract. This premise is realized by the fact that everything that is the object of semiotics “contains” its own sign definition and identifies as such in sign processes. In other terms – restricting ourselves to Peirce’s semiotic – Possibility, Reality, Necessity, defining the phaneroscopic categories on which the sign definition is based, are always concretized, and the way this is occurs depends on the object we describe, interpret, or evaluate in semiotic terms. In every other semiotics, matters stand exactly the same.
  2. A consistent semiotic approach is guaranteed only if the hierarchy (order structure) of the determining elements of a sign is preserved, i.e. if the correspondence between the elements defining the object of our research and the semiotic image (at the extreme, the sign typology) are isotonic. This may sound somewhat hermetic due to the mathematical term isotony, but it refers to a very simple condition: if what I define at the level of my object of research as Possibility is not recognizable as such within the given order Possibility-Reality- Necessity of my representation, then I should not expect consistence in my approach. Sign topologies are always the expression of this hierarchy preservation. Thinking in terms of categories is also hierarchy preserving. What is accomplished is none other than the reduction of infinite to finite.
  3. Value, also aesthetic value, is only semiotically recognizable, although not reducible to signs. Axiological processes (evaluation, exchange, marketing, etc. ) take place as a special type of semiotic mediation. In connection to this last premise-thesis, one idea should be added: no aesthetic system can be considered as realized without there being a corresponding axiological component. In some of the most widely discussed aesthetic domains, an impenetrable wall has been erected between cognition and evaluation, to their mutual detriment.

On the basis of these premises, I propose to take two different semiotic approaches. The first will deal with a traditional aesthetic problematic, that is, with the question of the dimensions characteristic of the aesthetic under modern age conditions. The reference terms are the following: the sacred, the ceremonial, rite, myth, tradition. The second, referring to a kind of semiotic formalism, will deal with the aspects of value connected to the first approach. The examples to be given do not exhaust the subject. Neither do they pretend to be the best that can be given. Finally, although we deal here with semiotics, we do not do so for the sake of semiotics but for that of aesthetics and with a clear desire to remain within its domain.
I. Dimensions of the aesthetic
Aesthetic practice in contemporary society, part of the general semiotic practice, points out the consequences of a complicated historical process through which art – as a product of human praxis – has been fundamentally changed while also participating in the changing of the world. The meaning of the modifications – which continue to take place at a very fast pace – cannot be correctly determined or interpreted unless we try, without prejudice, to define the characteristics of current aesthetic practice and to see what causes – of a specific or allogenetic nature – explain these modifications. The difficulty in finding out what contemporary literature, painting, music, “heater, etc. have in common, in also evaluating the newer forms of aesthetic expression (from cinematography to electronic media or to new artistic genre), in defining the aesthetics of everyday life (the effect of aesthetic practice on life and on the environment) does not lie so much in the variety of forms as in the determination of the extent to which they fulfill a proper aesthetic function and from which point this function becomes secondary, as in the case of the aesthetics of reproduction, design, architecture, and leisure. The common element of the contemporary aesthetic phenomenon is frequently one of absence and not presence and can be semiotically identified and evaluated. The new means and media – assimilated or in the process of being assimilated – which have nourished the optimism of some aestheticians and cultural philosophers, have not brought with them that renewal which would have in turn brought about that high point in aesthetic practice that might justify the latter in its necessity. The ever more intense subordination of aesthetic practice to non-aesthetic factors – from the material components of the work of art to the technique of elaboration and to the expanded exchange of goods in the economic context of the market – as well as manipulation in forms that not infrequently reach the extreme are also consequences of this process. Science and technology are place in the forefront and a paradoxical phenomenon takes place: on the one hand, aesthetic practice loses some of its dimensions (ideality, for instance) and gains new ones (novelty, in a technical sense, for instance), abandoning part of its sign repertory and looking for new signs, discovering new signs and new semiotic processes, able to better embody meanings of contemporary significance. The products of modern aesthetic practice tend more and more towards integration into technical-scientific culture, the spirit of which they reflect, towards anonymization. On the other hand – and this is the paradox we had in mind, aesthetic practice displays a directly pathological elitist tendency, an enormous implicit snobbism although it affirms principles of aesthetic democracy. Only one example should be given: computer graphics are multiplied through means belonging to classical graphic technique, signed, and numbered – all actions against the spirit of this new type of art production.
In W. Benjamin’s view, at the moment when the authenticity of artistic production is placed in doubt through reproducibility, art’s foundation in ritual yields to its foundation in politics. This viewpoint has lately become rather commonplace, even though its very logic and truth has not been considered as carefully as it should be. A first assumption: the process through which aesthetic practice is integrated into general practice has the primary effect of the loss of the individuality of the artistic act; it becomes technologized and even – as is the case in many areas of today’s aesthetic practice – technology. Another characteristic to be pointed out is that reproducibility – a form of semiotic practice – has diminished the significance of such components of the aesthetic as spontaneity, participation, mystery, the oracular, etc. or has caused them to disappear completely. Consequently, elaboration, the impersonal, lucidity and concreteness impose themselves. Thus, the symbolic dimensions of the aesthetic are obviously in continuous decline; the desecrated symbol becomes the object and as object perse it is reified. The most conclusive example is, in this respect, the degradation in pornography and violence, a tendency which – in the context of contemporary art – has assumed forms impossible to ignore. While Benjamin’s assumptions are not the exclusive object of these reflections, it would be unfair not to point out possible intersections with his ideas or with the ideas of Hans Sedimayr, Mikei Dufrenne, Stefan Morawski, etc. to name only a few. It would be simplistic to interpret the contradictory evolution mentioned above as the sole consequence of the desanctification of the aesthetic – seen here as practice, as the product of this practice, as the object of perception and evaluation – only.
Aesthetic practice participates in the same process and tendency towards demythification that modern practice as a whole has programmatically appropriated to itself. Accepting that the myth is a transhistorical, cognitive model, we observe that demythification comprises both of the model’s dimensions (transhistoricity and cognition) in their unity. Moreover, part of the specific sacredness of the aesthetic gesture corresponds to that semiotic functioning of the myth as a magic means towards achieving and end. While Brancusione example out of very few others – appears to be a late exotic, believing that his sculpture can have a magical effect, the high priests of modern art are seduced by sophisticated technologies or by ratio-formalistic procedures that they apply in order to be more productive (Vasarely is an example to be given in the first place). Cosmogony does not interest them any longer, all that interests is the product conceived for the market. Each tends to produce or invent his own universe, as remote as possible from the mythic, or at least from the tradition. Desanctification is not necessarily secular in its essence. It can affect only exterior aspects (ritual, symbolism, ceremonial, etc.), and frequently that is what actually happens. Atheism and aesthetic iconoclasty are not at all identical. The mythical motive cut off from its ontological context leads either only to the renovation of forms or to a facile mode of irony, a mode which reflects a certain tiredness, exhaustion, impotence. No longer being – or no longer wanting to be – creative of models, contemporary aesthetic practice – aesthetic theory in particular – is no longer transhistorical, even when it tries, in various ways, to free itself of history. This is also a semiotic action. lt becomes, when accomplished in abstract forms, a spiritual type of technology and proposes a rather univocal semiotic system of codification that stands in contrast to the perennial ambiguity of the aesthetic. Within the unity Physis-Techne-Poiesis, the first two terms tend to dominate and even annihilate the third (the mythical). Human creativity is thus subordinated to those factors which embody human alienation. Ideologies tending to impose models of sacredness or new myths ignore that these can be only organic to mankind’s condition and cannot simply be stated as aims; or, if stated, they do not automatically become real. The so-called monumental architecture which was and still is produced in societies inventing ideological gods is relying on an empty sacredness. To use a metaphor: this architecture produced temples in a society where belief is impossible.
The myth, as an image of the reality of a society at a given moment of its evolution, first declines into fiction (Greek mythology or the German saga, for example), then into a motive and finally loses its expressive force. Myths cannot be proclaimed. They are the ultimate, synthetic, concentrated expression of the identity of a society, reflecting its contradictions, its questions, and its doubts.
In the contemporary world, new myths have either not been produced or have only reinforced the process of demythification (i.e., the process of negating myths, negation in general). Thus the myth of infinite progress – which originated in the last century and eventually extended itself to aesthetic activity – associated or not with the utopic myth of a perfect society (and not only Marxism contains such a utopian, messianic element) has contaminated the aesthetic process. But it is not inherent to this process. New myths come into being through the material to which they are applied and through the technique they utilize, or even through new types of artistic messianism. This has assumed several forms, some frankly bizarre (anonymification, exacerbation of aesthetic actions per se to the detriment of the aim of this action and sometimes allogenetic in nature); one example is the ideologizing of forms that begins with the assimilation of political ideals in the work of art and ends with the destruction of art itself, considered by some extreme rightist or leftist groups or anarchistic movements as an expression of attitudes that are either too liberal or too conservative or just generally reactionary. Obviously, such process should be interpreted as a reflex of the global crisis of values and a symptom of the very crisis of contemporary man.
On the one hand, utopianism has been able to set tremendous forces and resources into motion. On the other, it has progressively lost control of itself, and of the internal forces influencing it, in the end revealing its inability to offer an alternative to the human need for sacredness. Thus the aesthetic practice it stimulated has assumed either the aspect of merely confirming ideology or that of man’s sui generis experiment while continuously losing in transcendence and settling for immanence. New forms of ritual have been sought but no organic ritual has developed from this practical philosophy. The criterion of success -at any price or at no matter what price – has been set up, contrary to the idealistic spirit proclaimed, in the place of the spiritual effectiveness that the myth – as an algorithm of action (in all forms of human practice) – exercised on an existential level. The model involved in utopian philosophies has not proved its fruitfulness in reality and determined deep disappointment. Considering the gigantic production of counterfeit works as a component part of the aesthetic practice of the era of technical reproducibility, we can better understand the way in which demythification is accompanied by the myth of outward success and how value is reduced to this. In a broader sense, axiological nihilism replaces the transhistoricity of value, imposing hypersensitivity to the directly perceived form of time, to the instant. Self-reflection takes place, a sort of narcissism which causes art itself to become the object of art, the meta-level to become a meta-meta- and so on.
The loss of the general philosophical dimension of art in favor of narrow specialization – corroborated by the general crisis in philosophy – is only partially explained by this hypertrophy of the present and of the spatially immediate. The deeper cause is the abandoning of cosmogony – the relation between man’s world and the world in which his world exists – to the arms of science, the results of which are sometimes paraphrased in the aesthetic work or become components of contemporary subculture. The universe of the infinite is almost abandoned; the micro-infinite, too, and not necessarily because it was demythified by science and human technical achievements (such as the exploration of outer space or the ever deeper knowledge of the structure of matter.) Aesthetic practice tends to take place on the level of the physis and not of the meta-physis. Aesthetic action (happening, Land-Art, Flux, etc.) deprives the object of a name, de-semiotizes it, and reintroduces it into the pre-cultural order of things. In this respect did we speak about reification. The borderline between art and life is erased; everything is potentially an aesthetic object, or at least can be proclaimed as such. Aesthetic practice restricts itself to the mere selection and defining of contexts. Aim or responsibility is understood outside the aesthetic. Man himself being desanctified through progressively ruder social relationships, the aesthetic ends by cultivating desanctification, or sanctifies demythization, pornography, violence. As inflation begins to take over every form of temporally context-sensitive human practice, aesthetics itself becomes inflationary, abandoning its function and pride of being value creative (aesthetic values are by definition transhistorical). The examples that can be given are continuously increasing. It is not sufficient to pick some out from among so many. In order to understand and explain the process – and to eventually risk opinions about future developments and the way we can influence them – we have to consider such examples in the very general spatial- temporal context of contemporary aesthetic practice.
It would be simplistic to believe that this practice is unitary or that it lacks contradiction. And it would be naive to believe that the characteristics enunciated above exhaust the real phenomenon. In fact, the main tendencies in the aesthetic (but not only aesthetic) theoretically proclaim the need of a new type (or of several such new types) of sacredness, the need of myth, and, obviously, of a new coherent system of values. The aesthetic movements of the 20th-century avantgarde have without exception tried to define this new sacredness as well as the new condition of the myth and value. But they have not succeeded in the transition from the semiotic system of their aesthetic ideology to the semiotic system of the aesthetic itself, i e., from programs to the reality of the work as such. The once revolutionary art that proclaimed a new secularized aesthetic era quite quickly became traditionalistic. When condemning the past, it seemed in a certain solidarity; looking towards the future, it starts to segregate.
No willful gesture can reconfer the status of special (Besonderheit ) upon art. The latter can stem only from the general self-conscious evolution of mankind, resisting those causes that produce the dissolution of the aesthetic. Art has always been a social partisan. It should become a partisan for its own cause too.
Attempts, of a semiotic nature, at recovering ritual, ceremony, mystery, etc. have been made in certain areas of aesthetic practice. In “heater, incantations belonging to cultures that have preserved them were revitalized Poetry tends to rediscover the expressive force of rhythm or of the de-semanticized word. Painting, sculpture, music also tend to compensate the assimilated rational component with un-rational forms or structures such as the ones belonging to civilizations remote in space and time or even to magical practices. Even in such functional products as those of design or architecture, components revealing a rather trans-functional goal can be discovered. The propensity of new forms of the esoteric, manifested in literature as well as in the arts related to the newer media, and the appeal to the creative spontaneity of children (the aesthetics of the infantile) or of culturally uncontaminated persons/groups (naive art) all express the contradictory situation of today’s aesthetic practice. On the one hand, the term artificial art stemming from an extension of the concept of artificial intelligence – has imposed itself, consecrating technologization and integration, desanctification and demythification, fixation on the zone of utilitarian values and change. On the other hand, it continuously researches the resources of subjectivity and gives expression to the relation between man as subject and the world in its objectivity. Aesthetic representation has become extremely diversified, and as a result, aesthetic theory should re-elaborate the concept of representation. It is obvious that the imperative of a unique mode of aesthetic practice (particularly of a unique mode of representation) has been irreversibly outdistanced. But none the less obvious is the fact that this practice tends to be concentrated on its own product. Representation tends towards re-re-re…… representation to the extent that it becomes self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. Fiction is written about fiction or about art. New paintings are merely renditions of older ones.
Gnoseological interest is oriented not towards the world and society in their objectivity, but towards knowledge itself. Representation has not only been rationalized but also conventionalized to the extent of the introduction of an arbitrary sign system whose rules of functioning can no longer be intuited but must be learned, whose degree of necessity is no longer determined in relation to the quality of representation (from likeness to extreme symbolism) but to the consistence of the aesthetic object (possibly expressed in logical form). Language, or sign systems, instead of remaining a mean, become a goal. Poetry is written in invented languages; painting imposes autarchic sign systems; in music too, formal (scientific) languages are sometimes used in aesthetic expression. There is an understandable fear of manipulation which explains such attempts, but does not justify them. Art has never been independent of calculation, but never until now has it been pure calculation (as it tends to be in some of its domains). Sometimes scientific aura–because science itself has an aura–is not only lost in the aesthetic but also leads to triviality or to merely apparent aesthetic products.
In direct relation to all of what has been stated here – which should not be misunderstood as the expression of some sort of fatalism or resignation or even blanket condemnation of all that is produced in our age – the question of the role of the aesthetician naturally arises. The aesthetician’s activity transcends the display of erudition per se and cannot be taken up only out of interest in history or methodology. Just as in reality there exist a level of culture and one of subculture, there also exist two levels of the aesthetician’s activity. Disk-jockeys, hucksters, certain types of gallery owners, fashion firms, etc. semiotically operate on the level of subculture. But it should not be concluded that the terms sacredness and myth are excluded from here; they are, however, sometimes abused in order to draw attention away from genuine value and to draw it instead to attributes usually connected to tradition or investment strategy. The act of ordering a picture over the telephone belongs to subculture. To create pictures, as Moholy-Nagy did, with an open, polemical content, raising them to the level of the aesthetic and divorcing them from the manner in which they were ordered, means to overcome the subcultural level and to integrate an object into cultural values that seemed condemned to aesthetic death. This involves an interpretive moment based on critical perspective, without which no practice in general – and no aesthetic practice in particular – is possible. To say aesthetically no does not mean to negate sacredness or myth, but to oppose compromised, exhausted, anachronistic, or opportunistic forms of sacredness with new forms of myth, mystery, etc. that derive from new realities and new constraints, from new needs and new aesthetic means.
We find ourselves here confronted with spiritual positions, some successive, others quasirepetitive, materialized in the effort to look for meaning (in the outer world as well as in our own). The demythification of the aesthetician’s role is not just the reflex of the demythification of aesthetics as a whole, but also the expression of a stage of this practice’s evolution, impossible to comprehend except within the concept of human praxis in the broadest sense of the term (including – whether we like it or not – destructiveness ranging from simple gratuitous negation to the abomination of war and the extermination of people). The division of praxis and its continuous specialization not only produces the “one-dimensional man” discussed in neo-marxist philosophy and aesthetics, but also explains the integrated nature of the aesthetician’s activity, and the ever more narrow perspective that the latter manifests as a reflex of this specialization. To explain does not automatically mean to justify or accept. Living in a world that is going through one of its deepest crises – and this crisis is universal in character – aestheticians cannot avoid reflecting on this condition and face the fundamental problem of value.

II. Value, value typology and the axiological continuum

What we actually perceive in axiological practice is not value in its generality, but its concrete aspect as evidenced through its signs. To determine an object’s value means therefore to perceive the ideogenetic triadic structure in the allogenetic semiotic field. In other words, it means to specialize the interpretant, to give it axiological identity. The triad thus constituted by
defines a separate type of sign, the axiological sign. In fact, any sign can be considered, in relation to a suitably selected system of reference, as axiological. However, it specifically displays this identity in axiological processes (evaluation, identification, composition, decomposition, affirmation, negation, differentiation, integration, etc.). It can be observed from the model of the triads that in the semiotic field, the sign produces different functions in relation to the end imposed by the interpretant subsign, hence, in relation to its specialization. Thus, alongside the axiological function, which we dwell on here today, it can fulfill an epistemological, gnoseological, anthropological, ideological or aesthetic function.
In each of these cases, we identify an intrinsic (ideogenetic) specific structure and an emergent (allogenetic) exterior structure corresponding to the opening of the semiotic, that is, to its entering into relationship with other systems. It is obvious that value is brought about only in time – no matter what kind of value we speak about – that is, processually, and that this process depends on a multitude of factors, some necessary, some incidental.

Behavior in the semiotic field, which in fact is the process of value realization, can be characterized in relation to present states and previous states or can be connected to future states, especially for processes of a prescriptive nature.
The interpretation of successive axiological signs points out a contradictory nature: the continuous and discontinuous. On the one hand, value tends to be realized in a continuum (axiological) and on the other, its signs show discontinuities corresponding to forms of objectivization that successively negate themselves, thus realizing the internal dynamics of value.
The problem preoccupying us here, especially from the perspective of applying the results I shall propose to the evaluation of art – results concerning aesthetic practice – is the typology of the signs of value and of value itself. It is known that in the domain of axiology, the typologies proposed have successively proved themselves incapable of expressing the real variety of the forms of value and evaluation. The semiotic premise of the triadic structures that my research tends to develop necessarily leads us to a new comprehensive typological table that corresponds to the most varied types of axiological processes (axioses). In addition, if parallel to this we consider the sign of value in its dynamics, we shall also be able to suggest how the transition from one form of value to another takes place and how this transition is manifested in the semiotic field.
Anything can be the object of the sign of value, irregardless of its nature. Ideogenetic structure is what gives axiological identity to the object. Allogenetic structure is the model of a formal theory if all the axioms of this theory are valid for this structure. We thus arrive at the conclusion that the axiological interpretant is what permits attributing the allogenetic structure to the object to which value refers. In fact, the cognitive interpretant is a sign of identification, in the sense suggested by de Saussure1: identity = value.
Value is a possibility. Its degree of necessity (which always implies a semiotic component) is processually verified in the field of human experience in which the transition from possible to real, from real to necessary (and also inversely) continuously takes place. Here it is advisable to distinguish between the semiotic theory of value and axiological processes per se as processes that take place in the generalized semiotic field of human practice and existence. On the theoretical level, a continuous tendency to synchronization of the formal model of the system with experimental approximations of the real can be observed. Axiological processes are, however, semiotically illiterate, although the axiological subject acts on the real departing from certain representations which it makes through the intermediary of structures. Here the practical dimension of the value sign is shown and here we arrive at a confrontation with the principle of incompatibility that Zadeh, the initiator of research into fuzzy sets, has enunciated: the more the complexity of a system increases, our ability to make precise and even significant evaluations on its behavior decreases to the extent at which precision and significance (or relevance) become characteristics that almost exclude themselves reciprocally.

In this sense, precise qualitative analyses of the behavior of humanistic systems do not seem to have much relevance in the real world of society, politics, economics, or for any type of problem that implies human beings as individuals or groups. Indeed, as far as value is concerned, the precision and significance (relevance) of scientific evaluation have a complementary nature. The extension of the semiotic typology to the typology of values which I subsequently undertake is epistemologically justified by the equivalence of the fuzzy category of the sign and that of value(2). I restrict myself here to only 10 value classes, although 28 or 66 (the reason why exactly 28 or 66 is to be found or in Peirce’s writings or in the categorial analysis of his sign definition accomplished by Nadin or Marty) can be exactly in the same way used. The premise to be accepted is structural – a short explanation follows bellow – and therefore of a formal nature. What we gain in relevance using this value typology, we shall lose in precision.

II.1 Defining sign classes through the diagram of fuzzy categories Dgram(op), the sign typology proposed by Peirce results with the following modification: the reciprocal relations between sign, object and interpretant have a fuzzy nature. Therefore, any sign is actually constituted from the family of signs that fulfil!, more or less (in the interval between 0 and 1) the definition of this sign. If we further consider Peirce’s distinction between the immediate and the dynamic object, or if we introduce such a distinction in respect to value (in particular aesthetic value) we will derive, in a consistent way, 28 classes of values. A trichotomic distinction of the axiological interpretant leads us to those 66 classes mentioned above (and which Peirce discussed in one of his letters to Lady Welby, of course in respect to the sign). Sign processes imply fuzzy morphisms:
i.e. fuzzy relations between the sign constituents. The same holds for values under the condition to determine the morphisms in a pertinent manner.
Qualivalue – the value that consists of a quality of the object that the interpretant consti tutes as the object’s iconic sign. It makes itself evident through raw, unanalyzed perception. Marx3 spoke of “minerological sense” giving the shine of gold or silver and the value (of a qualivalue type) of precious stones as an example. He even considered that the reproduction of their proportions/measure (Maß) would represent the natural motivation behind aesthetic practice. Ideogenetic structure is represented by the structure of the object itself.
Iconic Sinvalue – embodies a qualivalue; for example, the effect we experience as a valoric sign of the golden section or of a musically illustrated Fibonacci series. The recording (through any kind of material means) of states of aesthetic emotion could also be given as an example. At this level, the ideogenetic structure is detached from the material structure per se and is distinctly perceived as an aesthetic identity.
Rhematic Indexical Sinvalue – the aesthetic value of particularization, that is, of the representation of the general through the particular (not through the typical-individual). The problem of identifying a special type arises, a type whose structure represents a whole through a part, producing the identity of metonomy in the final analysis. The fact that this is not necessarily connected to linguistic signs is thus verified.
Dicent Sinvalue – as experience of direct evaluation that gives axiological information on the object. It implies an iconic sinvalue for embodying information. The scale (the measure of value in weight), but also instruments that measure carats (in gold or precious stones) and brilliance (including photometers) are examples of means leading to this type of evaluation. A rhematic indexical sinvalue illustrated by experimental devices is also implicated. Information aesthetics, in Bense’s conception [Aesthetical] in fact deals only with dicent sinvalues and not with aesthetic values. Aesthetic objects that reproduce such structures (Carder’s Mobiles on a balancing structure, for example, or objects with a ruminating effect, etc.) exemplify this type of value to the same extent as specifically aesthetic value (which is, as we shall see, rhematic indexical legivalue).

Iconic Legivalue – the value of a description (theoretical or otherwise), of a taxonomy (including the taxonomy of art), and of stylization are of this nature. That is, this value tends towards a certain degree of generality that is concretely determined by each object in particular. This is a question of the value of the laws of art as in when they are applied to concrete objects, hence the value of descriptive theories or of classifications based on the criterion of resemblance.
Rhematic Indexical Legivalue – a structural type. In this case we have, with the aid of conventional signs (linguistic or otherwise), the qualitative enunciation of a property of the object. This is the specifically aesthetic value that carries out the transition to the qualitative and includes the possibility of transposing physical laws into such qualitative terms (the expressive function of the aesthetic).
Dicent Indexical Legivalue -a structure which is rigorously specified by the determining object; that is, this type of value represents the unity of the determining or constituent elements of the object’s identity. The value of scientific enunciations is one example. Works of art of a conceptual type are examples from aesthetics.
Rhematic tic Symbol Value – a value specified by the object through an association of general ideas arousing in the intellect an image leading to a general concept. It can be interpreted as the value of a concept, for instance or some aesthetic categories (the comic, the tragic) whose replica -a rhematic indexical sinvalue – is -is an actual situation, a personal aesthetic experience that was comical or tragic. The object of value is the “comedy of a situation” or “the tragedy of a situation,” examples for the respective categories.
Dicent Symbol Value – connected to its object through an association of general ideas actually affected by the object. The existence or law it expresses and of which the axiological interpretant becomes conscious must be really connected to the object. Aesthetically speaking, this is the symbolic translation of a state of affairs – the value of happening on a given theme is the simplest example. But the value of symbolic literature is also an example.
Argument – the value whose interpretant represents the object as an ulterior value. This is a question of the value of relations, or metatheory, and of aesthetic law expressed explicitly in metalanguage or implicitly in the object language of art.
Mixed values are all those of an iconic type(4). Immediate values are all qualivalues. Values of an ideological nature are all legivalues. Singular values are all sinvalues. In this way, several levels can be distinguished:

  1. The embodiment of values, that is, the advancement from the perception of quality to a prime, nonsystematic level of iconic singular value;
  2. Transition from a resemblance relationship to other values to an existential relationship;
  3. The specifying of value, that is, selection from a fuzzy set of the axiological signification of those values that correspond to the open structure nature of rhematic values (a value that is part of an axiological chain such as “. . . beautiful. . .”);
  4. The transition from a singular value to identified value as part of ideology (legivalue), hence from an existential object-value relationship to a conventional relationship (including social conventions);
  5. The fulfillment of symbolic values as an end in itself, that is, the theoretization of value;
  6. The logical ordering of values, that is, the realization of a model of the latter, axiological formalization (for example, this very same study).

Triadic structure, as well as the reconsideration of Peirce’s phaneroscopic categories(5) have lead not only to this category of sign classes but also to the determining of the internal dynamics that characterize it. That is, we have two types of functors from possible to real (a) and from real to necessary (ß) that also indicate how the transition from one level to another takes place, hence from values on the order of the possible to those which are real and then to those which are necessary. This transition can be represented in a network:
A value is here given not only by the digit staying for the types described in the text, but also by the axiosis through which it is generated or those in which it participates generating new values. This is a matter of fundamental importance, because value can and should be understood only dynamically. The morphisms in this network, that is, the relations between the objects of its fuzzy category of value, are represented in triplets. Within each triplet are two identical transformations (identity functors) and one of either functors or ß that indicates the transition from possible to real or from real to necessary. Any other morphisms can be broken down into elementary morphism; i.e., any direction indicated in the given network can be followed in the practice of evaluation and also in the practice of value (axiosis). Here is an example: between an iconic sinvalue (the harmonizing action of the laws of the golden section, irregardless of whether it concerns the normal screen in a movie theater or planning a picture on canvas) and the dicent symbol value (enunciation of the law of the golden section as it is found in architectural treatises, books on aesthetics, or manuals on art theory), many paths are crossed, given through
which are, in the first case, from resemblance to existential relationship, specification, conventionalizing, theorizing, and in the second case, from conventionalizing to realization, theorizing, specification. The same theoretical aesthetic enunciation can be obtained following two different paths, proof that there is no real opposition between immediate experience and symbolic knowledge, but only a different gnoseological course. Thus the integrated nature of the human being is again shown.
The table of values, in its dynamics, also prefigures main forms of production and evaluation, hence of axiological practice. There is likewise the level of natural economy (the barter system of trade is an example) characterized through qualivalues,, then a level at which units of equivalence having an iconic nature (values that fulfill similar functions) are instituted, a first level of systematization, the level of iconic legivalues, that permits the taxonomy of art, the axiological practice of a qualitative type, represented by the rhematic indexical legivalues which in aesthetics lead to the morphology of art, for example, a type of formal evaluation. At the next level, the transition is made from quality to quantity (dicent symbol values) that information aesthetics as both an analytical method and a (generative) process of synthesis represents.
Aesthetic models describing the behavior (in time and space) of art are based on the fulfillment of rhematic symbol values, while the aesthetic values of living forms (action and not its results) are represented by dicent symbol values. The value of the closed aesthetic system (Kant’s, for example) is represented by an axiological argument. The same table succinctly represents the stages of development in time of the practice of values, from those spontaneously perceived to those that are continuously differentiated. We thus have successive stages leading from “naturally” perceived quality – man as part of nature – to the experience of the object of value, the establishment of ideology (as a coordinating axiological system) and axiological formalization (in particular, the establishment of symbolic mediate forms, such as money and in our day, the symbols of money such as checks, credit cards, stock, etc.). The history of aesthetics finds itself systematized (hence not following its inclinations, but the logical line of evolution) between the intuition of measuring the object, the mineralogical sense, the sense of order, symmetry, harmony, beauty, the specialization of practice (in the process of the social division of labor), the detachment of object value, the theoretization of value, etc. I shall sometime later try to recreate this course, naming known historical points of reference. But another aspect is also important here: the succession of aesthetic concepts appears in its double quality of a succession of a type of values and a type of signs and can be characterized through morphisms.. One relatively simple example: starting from the system of Hegel’s aesthetics(6) (an argumental type), one finally arrives at Marx’s naturalistic aesthetics through a different type of morphism, more precisely, through retro-axiosis, an action of axiological meaning on values: ( – , – ,ß*)( – ,ß*, – )(ß*, – , – )( – , – ,a),(,ß, – , – ) leading to a rhematic indexical legivalue (retaining the expressive function of the aesthetic, the transition from physical reality to aesthetic reality). In this table we also recognize a sui generis generic model of art:

  • object and aesthetic subject. Differentiation, including of the human subject as a subject that can become its own object (the generic nature of the human being);
  • the sense-motor level of sensible experience as a pre-aesthetic level specific to the evolution from natural man to cultural man;
  • the level of pre-operative thought (that is, of elaborative thought) as the phase necessary to any aesthetic procedure;
  • the stage of concrete aesthetic operations, the realization of individual values (sinvalues) as in the ideological field (of legivalues);
  • the stage of symbolism, of formal operative structures (in the sense suggested by Cassirer(7), Langer(8), Lotman(9), et al).

All processes have a fuzzy nature. There are no rigid lines of demarcation.

II.2 There exists, however, the possibility of looking at the reality I have referred to from many other perspectives, and I will not affirm that one is necessarily better than the other. The point is to make sure that the method chosen suits the desired goal. The processes described in the first part of this paper (desecration, demythification, lack of authenticity, etc.) can be easily characterized by means of the suggested value typology. For other phenomena, more complex or of a different semiotic condition, we might need an improved typology. And for a prospective research we will have to consider not only the types of value and the morphisms (the dynamic of the system), but also the past of this system, and find out under which circumstances values degenerate or, on the contrary, lead to new values and new axiosis. Aesthetics is axiological human transcendence in semiotic sensible form. The great miracle of mankind’s nature is that while continuously acquiring higher practical certitude it simultaneously produces new doubts, reproduces its doubting nature.


  1. Saussure, Ferdinand de, Cours de linguistique generale 1, 11, Edition critique par Rudolf Engler. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1967,1974.
  2. Nadin, Mihai, “On the Semiotic Nature of Value,” Ars Semelotica, 3 (1978), pp. 3349.
  3. Marx, Karl. Ökonomisch philosophische Manuscripte aus dem Jahre 1844. Die Frü hschriften, Siegfried Landshut, ed.. Stuttgart: Alfred Kroner Verlag, 1953.
  4. Morris, C.W. Varieties of Human Value. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.
  5. Peirce, Charles S. Collected Papers, edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960.
  6. Hegef, G.W.F. Ästhetik. Frankfurt a. Main: Europa Verlagsanst.,., 1965.
  7. Cassirer, Ernst. Philosophie der symbolischen Formen. Berlin, 1923-1931.
  8. Langer, Suzanne. Feeling and Form. A theory of art, developed from “Philosophy in a new key.” New York: Scribner, 1953.
  9. Lotman, Ju M. Aufsätze zur Theorie und Methodologie der Literatur und Kultur.. Taunus: Kronberg, 1974.

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