Semiotics of Autumn

This season-appropriate meme crossed my path—or did I cross its? No matter. It’s a clever instantiation of Baudrillard’s simulacrum, and it really demonstrates the path to simulacrum in 4 stages. I don’t know who rendered this, but it arrived to me via Philosophy Matters. Although it’s self-explanatory, I’ll editorialise nonetheless.

At Stage Zero, the thing in and of itself exists—out there. This is the signified. It’s the thing represented by the symbol depicted in Stage One—a so-called pumpkin, la citrouille, la calabaza, der Kürbis, and so on—the signifier.

At Stage Two, the essence of the signified remains intact, but it’s lost its form. We can make a mental connexion between this and the signified, but we are a step further removed. In this case, the pie likely started as the signified but was transformed into a pie, a new signified and signifer.

At Stage Three, we may or may not have any remnants of the Stage Zero signified, but we still invoke the essence of the pumpkin. More probably, we invoke the essence of the pumpkin pie by way of the pumpkin spice.

By the time we arrive at Stage Four, we’re left with a claim of ‘pumpkin-ness’ and a visual cue to remind us of the path through pumpkin pie and the trace of spice, the marketing angling toward the pie over the fruit.

Keep in mind that the claim of natural flavours does not presume that pumpkin is one of those flavours.

Ingredients (Coffeemate Pumpkin Spice Creamer)
Water, Sugar, Coconut Oil, and Less Than 2% Of Sodium Caseinate (A Milk Derivative)**, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- And Diglycerides, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sucralose (Non-Nutritive Sweetener).

I’m not entirely sure I agree with the distinction between Stage Three and Four in this meme, but it’s just a meme, so I’ll leave it here.

Telles seraient les phases successives de l’image :

– elle est le reflet d’une réalité profonde

– elle masque et dénature une réalité profonde

– elle masque l’absence de réalité profonde

– elle est sans rapport à quelque réalité que ce soit : elle est son propre simulacre pur.

—Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulation