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The Quasi-Error of the External World an essay for Thomas A. Sebeok, in memoriam

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Abstract:

There is a story according to which Professor Sebeok was on a panel of distinguished speakers who received from the audience a challenge to show cause why the basic ideas of semiotics, such as that of Umwelt, were not simply one more version of solipsistic idealism. Each of the speakers in turn addressed the matter, each beginning with a protestation (outdoing in earnestness the previous speaker) to the effect that, Of course, I am not a solipsist. Finally, Tom's turn arrived. He shrugged, and said simply: I'm a solipsist. It was one of those seminal moments, of which Tom created so many, like the time in Toronto where he mentioned in passing in his main remarks that Everyone thinks of language in terms of communication. But language has nothing to do with communication. In the question period, the very first questioner challenged him on the point. You said that language has nothing to do with communication, the audience member reminded him. Why did you say that? Because it doesn't, Tom answered pointedly, and proceeded to call on the next questioner.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas. Center for Thamistic Studies, 3800 Montrose Blvd. Houston, TX 77006 ., Email: deelyj@stthom.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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