Appendix B: Related Publications
Here are some of my published works and working papers on photography.
Augusto Ponzio first coined the phrase “ethosemiotics” to urge semiotics to connect up with ethics, and this had been developed by Susan Petrilli with her semio-ethic studies. In that spirit, I explore here how ‘photography’ could serve semioethical agendas, and how we can design the ‘camera’ to lead in semiosis to important questions of value.
This paper is intended as an exploratory contribution to the recently retrieved trend in semiotics to relate sign-studies with ethics and values, i.e., ‘semio-ethics’/’significs’, and to suggest how the ‘semio-ethical’ or ‘significal’ consciousness may be educationally enhanced. In “Designing the camera” I wrote about ways to shape the camera or photography qua sign for semio-ethical purposes. Victoria Welby spoke of significs not only as a theory of signs, but also as a kind of (moral) educational theory, since she believed that the understanding of signs-in-relation-to-values raised our critical and ethical consciousness. Here I argue and give phenomenological evidence for the claims that the camera is a pedagogical tool just as it enhances significal formation. But not only that: the camera is a self-automating pedagogical tool; through using it, one is helped to discover the significant point of view. It is almost as if it automatically unpacks significs, or the semio-ethical consciousness.
This paper is an effort to detail what I believe semioethics can mean, and what a “semio-ethical” (c.f. Petrilli, passim) research method can look like. By drawing on John Finnis’ Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980), I argue that the quest for focal meanings is a kind of semioethical project. I then consider how such a project might look like across different fields, say, in the study of photography. This turns out rather fruitful, on two counts. First, this leads to further clarifications of the philosophical benefits of the semioethical development of focal meanings, and secondly these semioethical studies of photography and the camera supply empirical, triangulating evidence for the claims new natural law theory makes regarding the reality of the natural law identifying basic, common goods that are choiceworthy in themselves.
In this paper I try to make the case that the practice of photography can be employed to overcome, to borrow Vilem Flusser, a kind of weak textolatry inherent in legal texts, such as in Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980) by John Finnis. By putting the photographer-theorist back into the world of sense and by “presence-ing” him, the practice of photography can re-situate him ontologically and semiotically into that life-world of practical thinking in which the natural law shows. It is this grasp of the natural law that is the methodological center-piece in the Design of the law in the philosophy of law, without which Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980) and the new natural law tradition with it appears theoretically vacuous.