A small point on the philosophy of mind: Saussure’s sign and brain lateralization

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Abstract
We propose that Saussure’s signifiers must be processed in the left brain hemisphere (in right handed people) and the signified may be processed in the right. This proposition has consequences for understanding human cognitive phenomena and their pathologies, and can also be related to the passive and active process of thinking, as described by Karl Jaspers. Saussure studied signifiers and their relationships. He left the signified to be studied by psychologists, but there is no consensus about it. According to some linguists, the signified, or the meaning, is the specific activity or succession of bodily states related to each signifier. Learning is the process of linking a signifier (a represented object) to a signified or meaning (a specific activity). However, human beings can represent signifiers autonomously because words and drawings are easily produced with small movements and have syntactic, referential and logical rules of combination. If they are processed in the left hemisphere, the meaning (the signified) is only found when the right hemisphere is reached. The right hemisphere can also work independently, as for instance, when we imagine a story which has to find the words in the left hemisphere. The complex relationship between the hemispheres through the corpus callosum is decisive for telling stories and having self-consciousness.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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2012-11-15

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