Michelangelo, the Duck and the Rabbit

Towards a Robust Account of Modes of Existence

  • Juan Felipe Miranda Medina Santo Domingo Center of Excellence in Latin American Research (SDCELAR)
  • Marisol Cristel Galarza Flores National University of Saint Agustin of Arequipa (UNSA)


The concept of modes of existence of semiotic entities underlies (post)Greimasian semiotics, yet it seems to have received little attention. Modes of existence can be used in different senses. For Greimas, from the perspective of narrative semiotics, when Michelangelo first receives a block of marble and decides to sculpt the David, his intention is in a virtual mode; as Michelangelo progresses he ends up bringing the David into existence, and his intention comes to the realized mode. In Fontanille’s tensive semiotics, however, modes of existence can have to do with how one can narrow or broaden the scope of our apprehension of the David as our eyes look at it in order to produce a meaningful experience. In this work, the perspectives of narrative and tensive semiotics are contrasted both theoretically and practically applying both to a number of examples. In order to identify all possible modes of existence and all the possibilities of transitioning from one to the other in the examples presented, we resort to the method of finite-state automata from computer science. In the end, we propose a robust narrative account of modes of existence that relies on narrative semiotics for its definition, but into which intent and apprehension from tensive semiotics can be integrated. This work calls for the need of establishing a syntax of modes of existence, since both Greimas and Fontanille construe them as being necessary to account for the production of signification.

Author Biographies

Juan Felipe Miranda Medina, Santo Domingo Center of Excellence in Latin American Research (SDCELAR)

Juan Felipe Miranda Medina is a researcher, musician and dancer, currently focusing in the application of Greimasian semiotics to Afro-Peruvian dance. Given his doctoral degree in telecommunications and his artistic background, Miranda Medina’s theoretical approach relies on the interplay of semiotics, engineering, philosophy, anthropology and ethnomusicology. He is currently an affiliated researcher at the Santo Domingo Center of Excellence in Latin American Research (SDCELAR), as a director of the project CONTRAPUNTO: The living footsteps of Afro-Peruvian zapateo, funded by the British Museum.

Marisol Cristel Galarza Flores, National University of Saint Agustin of Arequipa (UNSA)

Marisol Cristel Galarza Flores is a Systems Engineer and expert in robotics. As a CEO of the laboratory in robotics Imagine Labs and General Manager of Ludio Robots S.R.L., Galarza was the winner of the national contest Start Up Perú 5G in 2017 for the design and production of a robotics kit. In 2020, she was the technical director of the research project for the design and implementation of a mechanical ventilator for the National University of Saint Agustin of Arequipa (UNSA), in Peru. Galarza is currently lecturing at UNSA in various subjects related to programming and computer science. Her interests include the interdisciplinary application of robotics and computer science concepts for the development of intelligent capacities.

How to Cite
Miranda Medina, J. F., & Galarza Flores, M. C. (2021). Michelangelo, the Duck and the Rabbit: Towards a Robust Account of Modes of Existence. Public Journal of Semiotics, 9(2), 1-29. https://doi.org/10.37693/pjos.2020.9.22417