List of abstracts
for Gatherings in Biosemiotics 3, Copenhagen, 2003.
"Homo semeiosis"--A guess at the riddle of the evolution of human
Stacey E. Ake
- Editor, Metanexus Online
The Metanexus Institute, 3624 Market Street, Suite 301, PA 19104
ake [ at ] metanexus.net
Using the semeiotic and logic methods of Charles Sanders Peirce, this paper
will show how the evolutionary movement away from a binary or dyadic
understanding of organism-environment interactions (i.e., the stimulus-response
paradigm) in virtue of increased complexity of perceived qualia may lead to
incipient communicative experience. The need to assimilate these increasingly
complex qualia seems eventually to give rise to a biological correlate to
Peirce's notion of abduction. This abductive move initiates the triadic nature
of all conscious interactions, including those found in signal processing,
semiotics, and eventually language.
To explicate this process, the work of Antonio and Hanna Damasio, specifically
their investigation into the case of Phineas Gage as well as the theory of
neuronal group selection of Gerald Edelman will be used to illustrate the
Peircean move from brain activity to mental activity.
However, to explain how experiences of qualia move from mere perceptions to
useful cognitions, the phaneroscopic or phenomenological categories of C.S.
Peirce will be employed. Here, the move from Firstness (perception of qualia)
through Secondness (the experience of struggle) to Thirdness (cognitive
mediation) will be illustrated by the case study of identical twins, John and
Michael (examined in Oliver Sacks's book "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a
Hat"), for whom prime numbers and other numerical phenomena seem to be
experienced as qualia and not as cognitive constructs.
Plumbing biosemiotics for chords of fundamentals
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
700 West State Street,
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059,
Biology and semiotics stand largely in a relation of substance (or subject
matter) and form (or approach). In the absence of any awareness of this
complementation, each must invent (or discover) the other. Now that a genuine
biosemiotics has been forged, it follows that a more specific rapprochement
might emerge. The dilemma for biosemiotics is that it is too easy to slide
into a fashioning of definitions, projects, and fundamentals as figures against
the ground of empirical and theoretical biology. That amounts to unpacking a
semiotic subtext in and/or a scaffolding for the subject of biology. It is
equally unsatisfactory to fill the structures and processes of semiotics, and
semiosis, with biological tokens. The task ventured here will be to abduce,
more than to deduce or induce, resonances within and between the substances and
forms of biology and semiotics.
The definitions of information and meaning
- two possible boundaries between physics and biology
Dipartimento di Morfologia ed Embriologia,
Via Fossato di Mortara 64, 44100 Ferrara, Italy
The standard approach to the definition of physical quantities has not produced
satisfactory results with the concepts of information and meaning. In the case
of information we have at least two unrelated definitions, while in the case of
meaning we have no definition at all. Here it is shown that both information
and meaning can be defined by operative procedures, but it is also pointed out
that we need to recognise them as a new type of natural entities. They are not
quantities (neither fundamental nor derived) because they cannot be
measured, and are not qualities, because are not a result of perception.
Here it is proposed to call them nominable entities, i.e. entities which
can be specified only by naming their components in their natural order.
It will be noticed that nominable entities are not equivalent to
ostensible entities, because an ostensive procedure does not reveal all
the features which are normally associated with the scientific naming of
If we accept that the genetic code is not a linguistic metaphor but a reality,
we must conclude that information and meaning are real natural entities, and
now we must also conclude that they are not equivalent to the quantities and
qualities of our present theoretical framework. This gives us two options. One
is to extend the definition of physics and say that the list of its fundamental
entities must include information and meaning. The other is to say that physics
is the science of quantities only, and in this case information and meaning
become the exclusive province of biology. The boundary between physics and
biology, in short, is a matter of convention but the existence of information
and meaning is not. We can decide to study them in the framework of an extended
physics or in a purely biological framework, but we cannot avoid to study them
for what they are, i.e. as fundamental components of the fabric of
Scientific Values and Biosemiotics:
A common conception of science tends to view it as an objective and
"value-free" search for truth that is above the social, political and cultural
battlefields of society. This view has had a great following both in the
classical philosophy of science and within the scientific community where it
has supported a notion of science as distinct from other activities by a
special scientific method where theories or hypotheses were characterized by
their ability to be empirically tested. In the classical tradition within the
philosophy of science the main issues were therefore concerned with the
relationship between theory and data, and with questions as whether the
scientific method should be "inductive" or "deductive" and whether scientific
theories should be "verified" or "falsified". The participant in these
discussion (logical positivist like Carnap and Hempel and Popper) all agreed on
a basic distinction between the so-called context of discovery and the
context of justification. Only the latter was considered to be the
subject of the philosophy of science whereas the context of discovery was
considered to be the subject of psychology.
c/o Jens Høgh, Zoological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen Ø
CBaron [ at ] zi.ku.dk
In the latter part of the twentieth century this distinction has become
increasingly under attack by sociologists and historians of science. Their work
has been informed by the insight that scientific practice is embedded in a
frame of background assumptions that accepts certain types of scientific
problems of answer as scientifically legitimate.
This talk will argue that in order to get a fair evaluation of the claims of
biosemiotics, one must first address some of the background elements in the
standard view of science within the scientific community that is also a part of the biological community.
The evolution of empathy in social systems, part II
The ideas for part one of this project was presented on last years
gatherings. It concerned the "outer" consequences of the intersubjective field
between animals engaged in play. This year I will focus on the necessary
phenomenological consequences of this interaction. The evolution of empathy in
social systems, part II, investigates the individual animals' experience of
social skills. Through this investigation I hope to create space for an
ethological method based on a biosemiotic framework.
The Biosemiotics Group, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83, DK 1307 Copenhagen K,
metteboell [ at ] get2net.dk
Similarities and differences between Second Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis,
In my view there are some very interesting commonalities between second order
cybernetics, cognitive biology as based on autopoiesis, and Sebeok's Peircean
semiotics that makes an integration into a Cybersemiotic promissing. But there
are also some interesting differences that lead me to the conclusion that they
need each other. The complementary differences that I see among these views
Royal School of Veterinary and Agricultural Science, Dept. of Economics and
Natural Resouces, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Fredriksberg C., Denmark.
sbr [ at ] kvl.dk
1. The concept of `structural coupling' is unique to autopoiesis, although von
Foerster's concept of `things as cognitive eigenvalues' is close to that, and
von Uexküll has a more vague idea of the same. Structural coupling seems
to be the prerequisite for generating cognitive eigen values which make
cognitive objects possible. Structural coupling is necessary for the sudden
construction of patterns that attain meaningfulness in the perceptual field,
such as the `sign stimuli' in the ethological paradigm of animal cognition,
communication and behavior.
2. Maturana and Varela point out that it is the autopoietic character of
living systems that makes it possible for them to conserve structural
couplings. Through these structural couplings it is possible to establish von
Foerster's eigenvalues of cognition. I suggest that this is what Peirce called
the Interpretant that is the sign in our mind that makes us see/recognize
something as a thing. Peircean biosemiotic build on Peirce's unique triadic
concept of semiosis, where the `interpretant' is the sign concept in the
organism's mind that is its interpretation of what the outer sign vehicle
"stands for," for instance, that a raised fist is at `threat'. This is, of
course, quite contrary to what Maturana proposes; i.e. no internal
"representation" as such, rather a continuous flow of configurations within the
nervous system, in a sensory motor closed loop, in which some configurations
become more likely and appear as regularities. According to Maturana a nervous
system is a detector of configurations within itself - and these do not take on
the "solidity" of the "objectness" of interpretants.
3. Peirce's differentiation between the immediate object of semiosis and the
dynamic object that is all we in time can get to know about it is an
evolutionary solution to the problem of the relation between the significations
sphere or "life world" of the organism and `the environment or universe'
outside it. This view is part of biosemiotics.
4. Peircean biosemiotics is based on Peirce's theory of mind as a basic part
of reality (in Firstness) existing in the material aspect of reality (in
secondness) as the `inner aspect of matter' (a view called `hylozoism')
manifesting itself as awareness and experience in animals and finally as
consciousness in humans. Combining this with a general systems theory of
emergence, self-organization and closure/ autopoiesis it constituted an
explicit theory of how the inner world of organism is constituted and therefore
how first persons views are possible and as real as matter.
5. Through this foundation for semiosis a theory of meaning and interpretation
including mind - at least as immanent inside nature - is possible and
cybernetic views of information, autopoietic views on languaging can be
combined with pragmatic theories of language in the biosemiotic perspective (as
I am offering models of in forthcoming papers).
Virulence and health in multitrophic systems.
A case for Biosemiotic Technology.
Luis Emilio Bruni
Institute of Molecular Biology, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83, DK 1307 København K, Denmark.
bruni [ at ] mermaid.molbio.ku.dk
The idea of biosemiotic technology implies the consideration of communication
processes in living systems during technological applications of biology. If
the characterisation, evaluation and assessment of informational processes (and
thus the importance of the context) within and between organisms are recognised
as important in biotechnology, a suitable logical framework for the
organisation of this knowledge will be useful. Biosemiotic technology would be
that part of biotechnology which makes use of such epistemological tools. That
is, the use of knowledge about "networks of biological information" i.e.
semiotic networks, and the respective semiotic controls, in order to
characterise, monitor, and if possible exert a controlled influence in a given
biological system. The main contribution of biosemiotic technology is to the
necessary integrative agenda of different subdisciplines and hierarchical
levels within the life sciences, from molecules to physiologies to ecologies,
in order to keep track of the relation of a given technology with its
particular context, be that a single organism, a patient, a niche, society or
Notes towards a Semiotics of Parasitism.
Professor of Semiotics, National Taiwan University
changhl [ at ] ccms.ntu.edu.tw
The metaphor of parasites or parasitism has dominated literary critical
discourse since the 1970s. Two prominent examples are Michel Serres in France
and J. Hillis Miller in America. In their writings the relationship between
text and paratext, literature and criticism, is often likened to that between
host and parasite, and can be therefore deconstructed. Their writings, along
with those by Derrida, Barthes, and Thom, seem to be suggesting the
possibility of a semiotics of parasitism. Unfortunately, none of these writers
has drawn enough on the biological foundation of parasitism and very little,
if ever, has been produced in this regard. Curiously, on the other hand, even
in biology, parasitism is already a metaphor through which the signified of
an ecological phenomenon involving two organisms is expressed by the signifier
of '[eating] food at another's [side] table'. This paper will make some
preliminary remarks on semiotics of parasitism, based on Jakob von Uexkull's
notion of Umwelt and Maturana/Varela's notion of structural coupling. It will
look into the phenomenon of co-evolutionary process in community ecology.
With reference to empirical history, the project will briefly survey the
literary and medical praxis of the 17th century England where large number of
creative writings referred to the phenomenon of parasitism, which was deeply
embedded in religious practice (e.g., the Eucharist) and political life (e.g.,
the courtier ecology in monarchy) of the times. Finally, it will touch upon
the possible 'parasitic' relationship between language and biology.
On the Biological Constructs of Schemata:
The Convergence of C.S. Peirce and Jakob von Uexküll in Diagramming
Juipi Angelina Chien
According to my previous rapprochement of Gombrich and Lotman in the context of communication-modeling systems, the schema presents several potential locations to be (1) a primary modeling system, as a precedent of natural language system, (2) at the center of semiospheres, as an abstracted end, and (3) at the margin of semiospheres, as a mechanism to model stimuli. These different locations reveal the ambiguous use of schema in different theoretical positions. One of the aims of this study is to explore schema as thirdness by coupling Peirce's triadic categories and Jakob von Uexküll's Umwelt construction. I am going to argue that schema as thirdness in the Peircean and Uexküllian universe of signs is neither a primitive beginning nor an abstracted end but a set in the subject's mind, which is definitely a priori but still functions to mediate the perceptual signs and the operational signs. According to Uexküll, the collaborations of schema and direction signs are capable of shaping and constructing the functional circles. In this sense, the schema has already been set in the animal ego to sustain its ontological perfection and to present its best survival value. Another aim of this study is to broaden the observability of schema with the experimental discoveries found about the nervous system, which is also where the Peircean and the Uexküllian models can be possibly bridged.
Graduate Institute of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Taiwan University
angie_chien [ at ] hotmail.com
Keywords: schemata, images, ontogeny, phylogeny, Umwelt, nervous system, nerve-cell sign.
Energy-bond-graphs - a semiotic formalization of
Peder Voetmann Christiansen
Roskilde University, Dept. of Mathematics and physics, P.O. box 260, DK 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
pvc [ at ] ruc.dk.
The energy-bond-graph-fomalism was originally developed about 1960 by
H.M.Paynter at M.I.T. as a tool for analysis and design of engineering
systems.Paynter acknowledged inspiration from C.S.Peirce (semiotic,
existentialgraphs). The present author has from 1970 developed the technique,
giving thediagrams a more iconic appearance and used it for applications
inecological energetics, non-equilibrium-thermodynamics, general relativity,and
2. Synthesis of ebg-models.
The construction of an energy-bond-graph diagrammatic model of adynamical
system proceeds successively through the three basic sign-categories of
1. iCONS, i.e. pictorial representations of basic system properties.
Theseproperties can be divided in three classes according to Peirce's
Firstness: active system components, like sources of effort or flow.
Secondness: passive and reactive components, like junctions, transformers, and
storage of kinetic or potential energy.
Thirdness: dissipative components, like resistors that mediate betweena passive
behaviour as energy-sinks and active behaviour as sources ofnoise.
2. INDICES, i.e. marks placed near the icons, indicating directions inspace and
3. 3. SYMBOLS, i.e. letters of mathematical significance denoting
system-parameters, like capacitance, resistance. The meaning of the symbols
isdefined entirely through their proximity to icons and indices.
3. DIDACTICAL MERITS OF THE FORMALISM.
As an axiomatc-deductive and semiotic formalism the ebg-systemis well suited
for the teaching of physics to experienced physics-students and for providing
principles of physics for model-applications in other fields, like biology and
economy. It servesas a tool for:
A) semiotic classification of dynamical variables and physicalparameters.
B) Introducing basic principles of physics as axioms or rules ofa diagrammatic
game, such that the diagrammatic dynamicalmodels are always physically and
computationally sound. In the lecture I shall give a short summary of basic
physicalprinciples and their relation to the semiotic rules of the game.
4. THE ENERGY BOND AND GENERAL RELATIVITY.
The energy bond is the icon for an elementary interaction betweentwo
system-components. It contains two indexed dynamicalvariables called effort and
flow distinguished by their orientationsin time and space. These two variables
are covariant andcontravariant vectors in a vector space of arbitrary dimension
andare combined through an inner or scalar product (the energy-flow)by a
metrical tensor as for the metric of Riemannian geometry.In this waythe
formalism incorporates the principles of generalrelativity as well as its
5. THE SINKS AND STATISTICAL MECHANICS.
As previously mentioned the energy sinks act as sources of noise.The passive
and active properties of a sink are connected throughthe
fluctuation-dissipation-theorem of Callen and Welton. Thistheorem gives in a
classical context a simple prescription for thenoise output of a sink for every
step of a numerical simulationsuch that the model will generate all the right
fluctuationproperties of statistical mechanics. the passive behavour of
thesinks makes sure that the laws of thermodynamics are respected.
6. THE JUNCTIONS AND QUANTUM MECHANICS.
The general vector-formalism of energy bonds ensures that adynamical ebg-model
without dissipation will develop accordingto the Schroedinger- equation of
quantum mechanics. Thecollapse- or measurement postulate follows from the
dissipativeproperties of a measurement-apparatus and the properties of sinks.
The junctions where more than two energy bonds meet describenon-local
topological constraints and can thus explain the counter-intuitive non-local
behaviour (entanglement) of quantum systems.In this way the ebg-formalism
serves to develop a whole newphilosophy of quantum mechanics:
Sign action and emergent intentionality in bacterial chemotaxis.
Claus Emmeche (*) and Frederik Stjernfelt (**)
The molecular machinery of bacterial chemotaxis, including signal transduction,
has been studied intensively for many years, and the causal mechanisms are well
known to a great detail. This system has already been used, within
biosemiotics, as a point of departure to give accounts for what it is for a
piece of information (or a molecule) to "mean" something to the cell, and how
one may consider the emergence of intentionality within a naturalist semiotic
framework. We shall comment upon this case, as well as possible criticisms of
such a biosemiotic account of intentionality. We will argue that a least two
forms of intentionality should be distinguished. We see this system and its
interpretations as a perfect case for illustrating the notion of emergence, the
relation between empirical and theoretical issues within biosemiotics, as well
as the relation between biocomplexity and non-biological complex systems.
(*) Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies, University of
Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 17, DK-2100 Copenhagen
emmeche [ at ] nbi.dk
(**) Department for Comparative Literature, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 80,
DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
stjern [ at ] hum.ku.dk
Biosemiotic Constructivism and the Ethics of Irreversibility
Donald F. Favareau
All sets of initial conditions and premises, most famously, entail
consequential products and conclusions - "certain things having been stated,
something else follows of necessity of their being so" - in Aristotelian logic,
as well as in complex dynamics systems theory. What "conclusions" - and what
consequences - does the biosemiotic perspective entail regarding the nature of
what would constitute a viable ethics in the anthroposemiotic world?
Department of Applied Linguistics,
University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
favareau [ at ] ucla.edu
Peirce himself, eschewing Jamesian pragmatism, has little advice to
offer in this regard, denying efficacy of theoretical ethics (when it is
performed correctly) to tell us anything at all of value to our "vital
interests" - while denying, as well, the ability of practical ethics to yield
disinterested and thus genuinely scientific knowledge (CP 1.621). Similarly
unhelpful on a daily basis might be the efforts at a von Uexkullian or
umwelt-preserving "process ethics" that leaves the would-be "moral"
agent simultaneously commanded and prohibited to act against, in some
inescapable way, the interests of their fellow umwelt-builders (as, for
example, by eating them).
So how does one arrive at a concept of "right action" or "the good" in a world
that is at the one time exponentially mediated and irreversibly consequential,
one where both "agency" and "responsibility" - so hard to specify under other
moral paradigms - cohabit in an unmanageable surfeit amongst the interdependent
nodal agents of the biosemiotic web?
Drawing on a long tradition starting in antiquity, this talk will attempt to
raise a number of important philosophical questions regarding the relation
between understanding and action in an ethical context, satisfactorily
Hermeneutic approach to the phenomenon of the living
Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Charles University Faculty of
Sciences, Vinicná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha 2, Czechia
filio [ at ] centrum.cz
In my contribution I shall keep the view that the understanding of the living
is important before it is possible to formulate any scientific theory about
Biology necessarily depends on implicit understanding of the living (such an
understanding belongs inherently to us all). Such an understanding, however, is
usually not taken as a prerequisite when a new scientific method is to be
introduced. Scientific methodology is reductive, i.e. it focuses on what is
possible to prove as a fact; therefore, it takes the living as an object in
front of us, as something which can be examined objectively, independently of
us. The dimension of such objectivity is an a priori framework. We are
confronted with a scientific pre-understanding of a different degree (not
belonging inherently to all of us), in which science is
organizing itself and works with. This approach not only does not take
into account the person who examines (and who attributes a meaning to the
process, selects facts, manipulates device), but is also indifferent to the
meaning itself. However, such process is the only way to make a scientific
procedure exact and legitimate.
As far as the pre-understanding of the living as a phenomenon is concerned, I
would like to point to three approaches, which are in certain aspects similar
and in some other dissimilar. My thesis is that we cannot understand the living
as such should we not first begin the examination with the person who
meaningfully refers to the living in an every-day lifeworld in a double role of
a layperson and a scientist. This relationship of meeting the living in real
life or laboratory is an interpretative relationship.
Three examples of the interpretation of the living are: first, the Czech
biologist and philosopher Emanuel Radl's concept of interpretative
biology; second, his fellow countryman Edmund Husserl's
transcendentally-phenomenological biology; third, Martin Heidegger's
approach: phenomenology of the living as a hermeneutic
reductively-constructive and destructive concept.
A new model for biology?
I will discuss the thesis of M. Barbieri in his book The organic codes.
Here, the posits the evolution and the build-up of complex organisms as a
re-construction. This thesis is, in my opinion, neither sufficiently
explained nor verified: it is not known or proven, that development proceeds in
strictly defined channel and towards default goals. Reconstruction taken as
re-building and re-making of adult organism is therefore a model
not supported with an evidence. Would not construction be much more
Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Charles University Faculty of
Sciences, Vini_ná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha 2, Czechia
hajnall [ at ] cuni.cz
As concerns the mathematical appliance used: beyond question, application of
arrays in case of spatial three-dimensional data definition is rightful, but as
indicated above: what should be proven first, is the very fact that the
development is reconstruction. The application of inverse matrix method
and density modulation is in this case just an aimless and ineffective
"ex-position". Even the MRM algorithm is misinterpreted, because Barbieri
doesn't distinguish between static and dynamic MRM models. Finally, the claim
"[mathematical] formulae ... effectively describe some features of living
systems" (p. 89) is a roughly simplifying assumption. We have to become aware
of fact, that any kind of mathematical model is only a coarse reduction of
living, and "some effectively described features" can bring out as a blunder,
This research is supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, grant no.
The Ecosemiotic Turn in Technology
- University of Copenhagen, Department of Biological Chemistry,
Sølvgade 83, DK 1307 Copenhagen K, Denmark
hoffmeyer [ at ] mermaid.molbio.ku.dk
The term information technology is a misnomer reflecting an outmoded
engineering way of thinking technology. It has become increasingly clear that
the real power of so-called information technology resides in its ability to
assist in the semiotic control of people's life. The same is the case in the
life sphere technologies. To the extent living beings are governed through
biosemiotic integration biotechnology must develop skills in dealing with the
biosemiotic dynamics of organisms. Thus while the new wave of biotechnology was
initially very much focused on the gene level, development now points in the
direction of more integrated levels of cellular or organismic semiotic
functionality. The technological mingling with the semiotics of living systems
is of course a much more powerful way of interacting with nature than simple
chemical or gene technological intervention. Like all other technological
innovations biosemiotic technology presents potential dangers as well as
promises. By focusing on the dangers critiques tend to blind us to the
ecological and health care prospects these technologies hold. It is argued,
that biosemiotic technology offers an indispensable tool for the creation of a
truly sustainable production system.
No Representamen Without Misrepresentamen : Bateson, Boundaries and Biosemiotics.
One of the fundamental issues in biosemiotics is the relation between natural
and cultural semiosis in a post-Darwinian framework of interpretation. One line
of argument discusses `interpretation change mechanisms' in biological
evolution through the process of channeling modified by feedback (Baldwin
effects, chreods etc.) - essentially a vector approach to nature-culture
relations. Here the most outstanding example of links between nature and the
social sphere is that of Waddington's socio-genetics. For others, the minimum
condition which set living systems apart from their non-living predecessors is
stable integration of self-reference and other-reference, a process which gets
more complex as semiotic freedom increases. This is essentially an oscillating
boundary approach to nature-culture semiosis favoured by Jesper Hoffmeyer. It
was also the approach favoured by Gregory Bateson who, despite a life-long
friendship with Waddington, abjured vectors and instead attempted to resolve
the nature-society relationship through Peirce's methodology of abduction.
But Bateson goes beyond Peirce in making mistaken interpretation - both of
interpreter and interpretant - essential to self-other meaning. For Bateson,
mistakes and paradox and the oscillations they produce were a central aspect of
meaning and appropriate interpretation in any communicative setting. This
paper examines aspects of Bateson's interpretative framework, discussing how
this approach might alter assumptions in `models' of semiotic freedom and
meaning linking nature to society.
Department of Anthropology, York University, Ontario,
24, Highview Crescent, Toronto M6H 2Y2, Canada.
peterhj [ at ] yorku.ca
Relation between Evolution and Development:
A Metasystemic Approach
Vefa Karatay (*) and Yagmur Denizhan (**)
(*)Molecular Biologist, M.S. from Dept. of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bogazici University, Istanbul/TURKEY
vefakaratay [ at ] yahoo.com
(**)the Electrical and Electronics Engg. Dept., Bogazici University, Istanbul/TURKEY
denizhan [ at ] boun.edu.tr
In our last paper we have proposed a basic cycle that may serve as the "quantum
of evolution". However, the same cycle seems to be applicable to developmental
processes as well. In this paper we will further investigate the anticipated
relations between evolutionary and developmental processes, and the respective
regimes of selection by integrating the Metasystem Transition theory and the
In this manner we hope to provide a framework that represents evolution and
development as special cases of a more generalised phenomenon rather than a
Substructures in the Peircean sign triad.
Dep. Molecular Microbiology, BioCentrum-DTU, Technical University of Denmark.
Building 301, DK2800 Lyngby, Denmark.
The Peircean sign triad is reformulated for use in a semiotic description of
cellular signaling. Some of the conclusions from the presentation of the sign
model are given below:
- No sign without an Interpreter
- An Interpreter is an interpreting system, of whatever structure, whose
evolution is affected by its interpreting capacities (somewhat similar to
Gregory Batesons broad concept of mind)
- A sign is created by Learning
- Learning is a process of reshaping the structure of the interpreter to
accommodate potentially important representations
- A sign does not possess internal properties
- A sign is a sign, only through its relation to other signs
- Classification of signs is based upon classification of relations
- The basic sign triad can be written:
- A virtual sign relation is not the true relation (i.e., the map is not the
Biological Aging and Death in a Peircean Perspective
Molecular biology research has revealed many interesting facts about biological
systems, but our current understanding of the biological organism as composed
of various molecular mechanisms has led to a fragmented understanding of the
whole. A good example of a research area marked by this approach is the study
of aging and death in biological organisms, a field currently dominated by
molecular biology and mathematical modeling. This presentation reviews current
approaches and argues that shifting to a Peircean perspective in the
understanding of the development of complex biological systems, may provide a
new and promising way of comprehending the puzzling and still unsolved mystery
of biological aging and death.
Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies (CPNSS),
Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen., Blegdamsvej 17,
DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
miak [ at ] biobase.dk
Organic needs, and other problems in biosemiotics.
An attempt will be made to formulate the theoretical problems of primary
importance that a biosemiotic approach is facing. These include two major
subjects: (a) development of the biosemiotic method itself, and (b) the
analysis of particular theoretical problems of biology. Among the latter,
the problem of organic needs will be analysed.
Institute of Zoology and Botany, Riia St. 181, 51014 Tartu, Estonia.
kalevi [ at ] zbi.ee
From Peircean Interpretative to Generative Semiotic:
Formation and Interaction in Life, Psyche, and Culture as Conceived
in Semiotic Ecology.
Whereas our world is commonly thought of as resulting from a
masterplan or law(s) (plus chance) it appears more reasonable to
conceive it to be thoroughly evolutive. The basic question is: how do
the Structures we can discern or infer arise. I suggest to explore
the consequences of the Evolutive Assumption that Structure Formation
is by Interaction and Transaction of existing Structures and nothing
else. Interaction is (analytically) triadic and generative already in
the physico-chemical, the cosmic and the mineral evolutions. In the
ensuing biotic, individual, and cultural evolutions interaction
becomes transactive: Structures recognize 'surface qualities' but
'deeper properties' determine the emergences of encounters in
diverging and converging lineages or nets of Relations. This
relational understanding of Meaning need not presuppose anything like
a mind; it is neither materialistic nor idealistic. Semiotic Ecology
is a conceptual toolkit capable, among other things, to generically
implement Peirce's claim that sign interpretation is the generation
of new signs.
University of Bern, Switzerland. Address:
Hostalen 106, CH-3037 Herrenschwanden-Bern, Switzerland.
alfred.lang [ at ] psy.unibe.ch
Coping with Complexity - a Bioinformatics perspective
Thomas Schou Larsen
Biological systems are complex entities and sophisticated computational
tools are needed to understand the multitude of interacting components. The
talk will exemplify ways in which bionformatics faces up to the challenge of
actually handling biocomplexity.
Novozymes A/S, Krogshoejvej 36, DK-2880 Bagsværd, Denmark
thsl[ at ]novozymes.com
Causality and functionality: metaphysics and semiotics.
In a neo-Aristotelian framework the semiotical nature of the material and formal aspects of the biological functionality is described.
University of Tartu, Estonia
andresl [ at ] lin.ehi.ee
What does meaning mean?
Anton Markos and Fatima Cvrãková
Charles University Faculty of Sciences, Vinicná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha 2, Czechia
markos [ at ] natur.cuni.cz
History of science has often witnessed development according to the following
scheme: (1) Take a word of broad usage (albeit with fuzzy contours) and narrow
its meaning substantially in order to enable its technical usage in a limited
area; (2) Inflate this technical usage back to the whole realm of the previous
semantic field; (3) Proudly state that "today, in contrast to the dark ages of
previous generations, we already know what the term means."
Information may serve as an example of such a "reduction-inflation"
We shall argue that the word meaning suffered similar fate in the recent
book The Organic Codes by M. Barbieri. We fully agree when he states
that two pillars of biology - energy and information - should be
topped up by a third one - meaning. At the same time, however, we
suspect that he tries to reduce meaning to a technical term essentially
synonymous to code. We take this example as a starting point for an
analysis how to preserve the original semantic field of meaning and, at
the same time, make it indeed a genuine pillar of biology.
40 years of animal signs.
Old and new questions posed by the zoosemiotic research
It was exactly forty years ago that Thomas Sebeok coined the term
zoösemiotics. As he himself stated, "zoosemiotics is the discipline within
which the science of signs intersects with ethology, devoted to the scientific
study of signalling behaviour in and across animal species". It is thus no
wonder that the development of zoosemiotics has been going hand in hand with
that of ethology, each providing its own theoretical innovations.
Tähkäkuja 5 k 144,
01370 Vantaa - Finland.
dario.martinelli [ at ] helsinki.fi
To deal with zoösemiotics today means to be aware of the
different methodologies that characterise animal-related studies, like
traditional Lorenzian ethology, behaviourism, or cognitivism. It means also to
be aware of the increasing importance achieved by the Umwelt theory within the
various theoretical frameworks. And it means, more generally, to testify the
evolution of semiotics itself, and its capacity, together with biosemiotics and
ecosemiotics, to achieve scientific respect and following within natural
Scopes of this presentation will be 1) to `report' the current scientific
status of zoosemiotics; 2) to illustrate the different theoretical directions
it took after its birth; and 3) to propose - with the due humility - few
reflections and problems for its scientific future.
Evolution of meaningful information generation through the evolution of
In this paper, we use the Meaning Generator System (MGS) presented at Gathering
in Biosemiotics 2  to analyse the evolution of meaningful information
generation through different steps of the evolution of life. Taking as a starting
point the usage of MGS for vital constraint satisfaction in basic life
(paramecium), we develop its application for more complex living elements up to
the case of non-human primate. The thread we follow is relative to the
identification of new constraints that can appear through evolution of life, and
correspondingly participate to generation of new types of meaningful
information. We show that beside the complexification of vital constraints to
be satisfied, and in addition to the corresponding enrichment of their
satisfaction processes, there is a step in evolution that naturally introduces
some specific new constraint in living elements. This step is the one
corresponding to the performance of self-representation. Self-representation
appeared in evolution at the level of non-human primates. We present the
content of self-representation and show that it has a direct consequence on the
living element in terms of a new type of constraint to be satisfied. We show
that this new constraint participates to the generation of a new set of
meaningful information via the MGS, and that the satisfaction of the constraint
introduces some natural formulation of emotion generation during the evolution
75 Rue G. Mandel 33000 Bordeaux France
crmenant [ at ] free.fr
[added note: link to the presentation: http://crmenant.free.fr/Biosemiotics3/INDEX.HTM ]
Cognitive processes of constructing internal models of the environment
In this talk, I discuss how the self, or a living system in general, can
construct an internal model of the environment, and a model or cognitive map of
a world including the self as part. Given a sequence consisting of indubitable,
direct percepts, or sense data, the self can at least live in the solipsistic
world constituted by these percepts, where no external reality is assumed. How
can the self or a system know the existence of external reality? The self can
only construct an outside within itself. The algorithm called "inverse
causality" was demonstrated to derive external reality by operating on a given
perceptual sequence (Nakajima, 2001; Int. J. General Systems, 30: 681-702). The
operation of inverse causality on the sequence generates a series of percepts
indicating external reality called "proto-reality", referring to an
environmental whole, not yet differentiated into individual entities. The
proto-reality is constructed internally by the self, which can be
differentiated (decomposed) into part entities to which symbols are assigned.
Logically, there are at least two ways of decomposing it into parts, i.e.
synchronic and diachronic. For the synchronic decomposition, entities
participate in forming the environment (i.e. proto-reality) synchronically,
where the environment is made of a fixed set of entities; whereas for the
diachronic decomposition entities constitute the environment diachronically,
where entities may be replaced by others with time. The combination of the two
modes of differentiation produces a variety of hierarchical structures of the
Department of Biology and Earth Sciences, Ehime University,
2-5 Bunkyo-cho, Matsuyama, Ehime790-8577, JAPAN
nakajima [ at ] sci.ehime-u.ac.jp
What is the meaning of pheromone to a moth?
Stephen Philip Pain
The present paper is about the semiotic foundations of rhetoric --the sign and then looking at the semantics of the sign in open (Morris) and closed (semiology) systems. Introduced is a notion of ontological boundaries (relative absolute presuppositions) that frame a system (a semantic space within) and an area of referentiality outside. One could then increase the semantic space and the ontological barrier by overlapping systems. The space of referentiality (the world) would itself by bordered by a metaphysical boundary. The object being to distinguish ontology that has its presuppositions inside a world frame, and metaphysical questions or problems outside. The basis of the sign with reference to these frames is investigated, looking at the nonsign, the tautological sign, the potential sign and the actual sign, as well as the system of pheromones as a rhetoric system.
c/o Brown, Kongensgade 15, 1. sal, 5000 Odense C. Denmark.
berlin55[ at ]excite.com
Creating two triads. One with the plant precursor at the top then the female moth at the left base and male on the right. This triad could then be linked to others such as conspecific moths, close species of moths, other species of moths and so on. The compounds and components in the pheromones and various bioassays may be used as a base for the figures and tropes in a biological argument. I ask all the questions asked of a linguistic or semiotic system. What is the meaning of pheromone to a moth? What is a proper pheromone etc. The object of mine is to work closely with the science of pheromones to create an applied rhetoric that can assist in the creation of programmes that can simulate possible behavioural responses of moths exposed to numerous forms of pheromones, and to see whether it is possible to use biorhetorics to "communicate" or signal to moths so that they move or behave in a way so desired.
A new leucine zipper conduct in response of microgravity.
Jorge de Barros Pires (*) and José Wagner Garcia (**)
Regulation of gene expression by many transcription factors is controlled by
specific combinations of homo- and heterodimers through a short alpha-helical
coiled-coil known as a leucine zipper. Like many other transcription factors,
the leucine-zipper-containing transcription factors bind DNA as dimers. A
leucine zipper is formed by two alpha helices, one from each monomer. The helices
are held together by hydrophobic interactions between leucine residues, which
are located on one side of each helix. This article is devoted to the problems
of the zipper conduct in microgravity. The major task is to establish a wider
knowledge regarding the environment characteristics and leucine zipper conduct.
We attempt to explain the mechanisms of sign fields and identify the structure
of habit exchanges. In this way, this paper proposes to analyse the leucine
zipper biochemistry as a sign process, based on Charles S. Peirce's thought.
The Semiotic study in order to discuss the nature of leucine zipper semiosis
should consider the relation between the sign and the conduct for it
determined. In this way, it is needful an explanation regarding the
modifications generates by sign in the conduct as: a mere tendency
(potentiality), an act (effort), or a habit (general law).
(*) Center for the Biological and Health Sciences, University North of
barrospires [ at ] uol.com.br
(**) Massachusetts Institute of technology, Center for advanced visual studies,
automata [ at ] uninet.com.br
The emergence of referential symbolic process in non-human primates communication: a zoosemiotic analysis based on the Peircean extended theory of
João Queiroz (1), Ivan de Araújo(2), and
Sidarta Ribeiro (3)
(1)Dept. Computer Engineering and Industrial Automation, UNICAMP,
São Paulo, Brazil
(queirozj [ at ] uol.com.br).
(2)Dept.Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
(ivan.araujo [ at ] psy.ox.ac.uk).
(3)Dept. Neurobiology, Duke University Medical School, Durham, NC,
(ribeiro [ at ] neuro.duke.edu).
Based on the Peircean ten classes of sign, we have presented a detailed
analysis of referential processes underlying the interpretation of alarm-calls
in vervet monkeys. We have identified putative neuroanatomical constraints for
these processes, which postulate the existence of at least two distinct
representational brain domains underlying the interpretation of alarm-calls as
either symbolic rheme or dicent symbols. Current knowledge in neurobiology
suggests specific candidate regions to integrate these domains. We propose
Gedanken brain-lesion ethological experiments, which should, in
principle, allow for the identification of brain regions involved in the
different semiotic aspects of vervet monkey alarm-call communication. Such
experiments should also permit the mapping of hierarchical relations among the
components of referential vocal signs in vervet monkeys. Finally, we propose
that certain specific behavior responses obtained in field playback experiments
indicate the emergence of dicent symbols in non-human primates. At the end, we
suggest the Peircean ten classes of sign as a finer grain analitical scheme to
identify the emergence of symbolic processes in non-human primates
Av. Rouxinol, 837-61,
Moema - São Paulo - SP,
Brasil - 04516-001
DCA - FEEC - UNICAMP,
Caixa Postal 6101, 13083-970 Campinas, SP,
Are Cognitive Ethology and Classical Ethology mutually exclusive?
Lewontin, among others, has pointed out that the NeoDarwinian evolutionary
synthesis might be criticised for reifying organisms, and that an integration
of the organism in evolution in such a way, that the organism is the object as
well as the subject for development, could be a fruitful point of view.
Classical Ethology, in the tradition of Lorenz and Tinbergen, is consistent
with the evolutionary synthesis, and the Classical Ethological theorising and
vocabulary can be criticised for desubjectifying animals, and thus accused of
mechanomorphism. The different directions under the headline of Cognitive
Ethology can simplistically be divided between Weak Cognitive Ethology (WCE)
and Strong Cognitive Ethology (SCE). WCE use a cognitive vocabulary in
explanations of animal behaviour but a mechanical vocabulary in the description
of behaviour. WCE can therefore also be accused of mechanomorphism. SCE on the
other hand use a cognitive vocabulary both in explanations and in descriptions
of animal behaviour and have frequently been accused of anthropomorphism.
Paradoxically it is the NeoDarwinian theory of evolution that has made us less
certain that the attribution of human qualities to animals is a categorical
fallacy. But anthropomorphism is still, in the classical tradition, considered
a threat to the study of animal behaviour. I believe that inquiry into the
following three areas - 1. a clearer understanding of what we mean by
anthropomorphism; 2. how ethological experiments ought to be designed; and 3. a
clarification of the purpose of a particular ethological work being done - will
show that Cognitive Ethology and Classical Ethology are not mutually
Institute of Philosophy and Science Studies & Institute of Environmental
Biology, Roskilde University, Postbox 260, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
Kims [ at ] postman.dk
Uexkülls "Institut für Umweltforschung" - Biosemiotics in
It is fascinating to learn that, long before semiotics was applied to biology,
there had been a biologist, whose research in physiology of nerves, muscles,
sense organs and behavior led him to a new conception of biology, that aimed at
describing vital processes without reducing organisms to mere objects, but
managed to refer to them as communicative subjects in the center of sign
processes. We are self-confirmed to discover that Jakob von Uexküll's
"crypto-semiotics", became influential and innovative in the development of
modern ethology, psychology, philosophy, linguistics etc. Thure von
Uexküll's interpretation of Uexkülls Umweltlehre into semiotic terms
shows convincingly how the new concept could make biology a meaningful
(bedeutungsvolle) science, able to serve as a unifying paradigm for other
sciences, like medicine, psychology, economy, ecology and sociology. Semiotic
concepts are now applied to biological fields ranging from ethology to
molecular biology. But how were Uexküll's originals concepts used in his
own biological research and by the researchers in his institute? Jakob of
Uexküll managed to found the "Institut für Umweltforschung" at
Hamburg University in 1926. Despite a lot of problems the Institute flourished
into a vital research center and its 14 young researchers produced about 100
papers in the first ten years under Uexkülls direct supervision. I want to
demonstrate some of these works and try to analyze how and to which extent they
can be described in semiotic terms. Was "Umweltforschung" biosemiotics in
Universität Hamburg, Institut für Geschichte der
Naturwissenschaften,Mathematik und Technik, Bundesstr. 55, D-20146 Hamburg
rueting [ at ] .math.uni-hamburg.de
From Natural Diversity to Enzyme Diversity
One of Novozymes' strengths is the knowledge which we possess about the
biology of microorganisms. In our unit Microbial Discovery, we use this
knowledge to build up diversity in our culture collection and to establish
the basis for our screening. The greater the diversity of microorganisms in
our collection the greater our chances are of finding the right enzyme for a
Novozymes A/S, Krogshoejvej 36, DK-2880 Bagsværd, Denmark
misa[ at ]novozymes.com
Time-binding or cumulative cultural evolution or second-order code-duality
or self-coding or can we have one biosemiotic explanation how we became humans?
The task of a paper is to discuss various perspectives on cultural evolution of
humans in terms of its main mechanisms. The evolutionary view on human symbolic
capacity will be framed in Alfred Korzybski's time-binding formulation
with its central focus on accumulation of cultural changes from generation to
generation. The notion of time-binding will be then related to some of Gregory
Bateson's criteria of the mental process, particularly self-reference
and logical levels, as possible explanatory principles for the process
of preserving transformations in the evolution of culture in humans. In the
next step, the issue of accumulated changes in cultural-evolutional drift will
be put in context of the code-duality transition in human communication
systems, including language, as means of the conservation of behavioural
patterns. Processes of cultural learning through signs and its permanent
individual re-description in ontogeny will be presented from the view of an
autopoietic embodiment of a person as a semiotic unit of population-as-a-system
evolution. Finally, we will examine a hypothesis of self-as-other-coding
capacity of human populations as a crucial preservation mechanism for the
cultural evolution changes. In conclusion, we will overview paths for
explanation of "the increase in semiotic sophistication of species" asking an
open question about workable synthesis of different approaches in the field of
Institute of Linguistics, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan,
Mi_dzychodzka 5/403, Poznan, Poland.
W_o_cia_ska 18/44, 01-710 Warszawa, Poland (for correspondence)
adamskibinski [ at ] wp.pl
Key words: time-binding, cultural evolution, code-duality, self-reference
Interpretive Symmetry: The Semiotic Measurement and Formation of
This paper is focused around my attempts to develop a semiotic realism, where
measurements transform energy to matter. When energy is measured or codified,
it can be understood as 'informed matter' or information.
taborsky [ at ] primus.ca
Within semiotic realism, I discuss the role of asymmetry and symmetry. I
outline a new type of symmetry which I term 'interpretive symmetry'.
Interpretive symmetry operates by establishing asymmetrical and symmetrical
measurements within a network of relations.
I define seven measurements; these measurements are not conceptual but are
empirical and material. There are four spatial values: internal/external and
local/global. Then, there are three temporal values: progressive, perfect and
present (K. Matsuno).
I use these seven measurements within six predicates, which operate as dyadic
measurements that encode mass such that it is in relation with other mass. An
informed mass exists as a triad of relations and this means that it must
displace energy from those predicate dyads and forge new connections.
Therefore, I outline the nature of this displacement and the connections within
Then, I focus on one particular predicate: the interface predicate. This is a
vital borderline relation, that links up with the other five predicates and is
understood as a mode of prescission or focused attraction. I posit six types of
interface relations: chaotic or strange; similar, serial; peer; population; and
pragmatic. With these measurements, I suggest that one can establish a
constructive semiotic analysis.
Graphical Models for the Fundamental Processes of Life
Philosophisches Seminar der Universität Hamburg.
Address for correspondence: Rentzelstr. 11, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany.
g.toepfer [ at ] gmx.de
Traditionally, biosemiotics deals with the semiotic interpretation of life
processes insofar as organisms are understood as generators of signs and
meanings. I will have a look at biosemiotics from a different perspective by
asking how the fundamental processes of life can be represented graphically.
Answering this question, the first step must be to identify those concepts that
determine the fundamental processes of life. I propose ten basic concepts and
will give for each of them a graphical model. The concepts are: organism, type,
form, function, development, behaviour, reproduction, evolution, ecosystem, and
culture. The proposed models are very simple and designed to illustrate the
basic idea of each concept. Each graphic is composed of two elements: objects
and arrows, the objects representing organic parts and the arrows representing
either causal relations or (symbolized differently) just the course of time.
With these graphic models a better understanding of the basic biological
concepts can be achieved.
In particular, I propose to model the concept of organism as a circle of
causally interrelated and interdependent processes; a biological form can be
represented as a special shape of an organism; a type is modelled as a form
that is incompatible in a certain respect with another form; a function is
represented as one process in a causal circle of interdependent processes;
development is illustrated as the increase in size and differentiation of an
organism; the essence of behaviour is represented as the regulation of the
supporting and threatening influence of the environment by an organism;
reproduction is simply illustrated as the multiplication of one organism into
two; evolution is modelled as a succession of reproductions that result in the
origin of new types and differential reproduction of the types; an ecosystem is
illustrated as a circle of causally interdependent organisms; and, finally, I
propose to model the concept of culture as the modification of environmental
objects by an organism, that does not (necessarily) have a feedback on the
Biosemiotics as objective ethics and esthetics?
Biosemiotics as "the science of signs in living systems" can be
understood in two different senses: either biosemiotic signs are thought as
signs for us from living phenomena, or they are considered as signs
for living systems themselves. This latter understanding contains an
intuition about some kind of semiotic realism, that signs, meanings,
etc. are effective in nature independently of human observations and
conceptualizations. Semiotic realism is what Peirce called `objective idealism'
or `(extreme) scholastic realism', that `ideas' (i.e. signs, universals, final
causes, etc.) are objectively cognizable as real. Not that they all were real,
but that some are. This forms a challenge to biosemiotics: which signs we find
in living systems are real and which merely seem to be real but
are, instead, just signs for us, and not for the supposed living systems
Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Philosophy,
FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
tommi.vehkavaara [ at ] uta.fi
I have earlier argued that the scope of biosemiotics should be determined as
Peircean objective logic understood as a theory of mind
operative in nature. That may, however, be wrong, misleading, or too
restrictive characterization. This re-evaluation is connected to my criticism
against the careless use of the concept of object of sign in
biosemiotics. Peircean triadic sign with object and interpretant is a logical
concept -- Peirce's semeiotic was his theory of normative logic. The general
purpose of logic was to create a sound general methodeutic for science
(pragmaticism). Thus, the initial prototype for the concept of sign was a
representation about something, which the scientific inquiry was
supposed to reveal (explanative representation). The `norm' of logic,
the logical goodness, which is consequently the sole purpose of pure science,
is truth. If sign had no object, there could not be any truth about it.
Besides truth, however, there is a myriad of other final causes (of thought) --
thought does not produce merely other thoughts but also real action
(that is not thought in itself). A thought which guides action is not
(necessarily) representational in the same sense than explanative
representation, only the goal of action, future state of system and its
environment, may be represented. This kind of anticipative representation
has no object at all, or if it has, it is the same as its interpretant (in
successful interpretation). It is still dynamic and mediative representation,
mediating the transition from the current state to purposed state, and it is
normative, because the transition may fail. I argue that in biosemiotics this
is more natural and general initial model of representation. Peirce's concept
of sign does not model that kind of mediation properly (without the violation
of the ethics of terminology, at least). But the logic is not the only
theoretical normative science of thought for Peirce -- there are also ethics
and esthetics. Because thinking is one kind of action, Logic is a
subdiscipline of Ethics, which is defined as the science of self-controlled
conduct, i.e. ethics is the science of how thought is guiding action in
general, how action takes the form of anticipative thought. For living
systems, correct (or true) representation does not constitute the highest value
(unlike in science?) but the correct action. So, the scope of
biosemiotics should be determined as `objective' ethics rather than
logic, objective ethics studying internally normative action in
For Peirce, the Ethics does not contain the evaluation and determination of the
ultimate goal of action, but that is the subject matter of Esthetics.
Esthetics is the first theoretical and philosophical normative science and is
defined as the science of self-controlled formation of ideals, i.e. of
what is objectively admirable. This can also be transformed into `objective'
science that should be included as essential part of biosemiotics. The
`Objective' Esthetics could be defined as a study of real norms in
nature. No global purpose or norm is necessary, but local system relative norms
suffice. The initial system relative norm or natural interest can
be defined in terms of self-functionality -- every living system has at least
one ultimate goal, without the satisfaction of which no other goals have any
significance, self-maintenance, not the mere survival, but the survival
through its own action.
It is proposed that objective ethics and esthetics (in Peircean sense) would
form two main departments of biosemiotics, the ethics being characteristically
future oriented and the esthetics in turn past oriented.
The Impossibility of Biological Physicalism and the Necessity of the Biosemiotic Turn
The concept of consciousness has re-entered the discussions of analytical
philosophy of mind. The hard eliminative, materialistic reductionism has been
weakened to a position of non-eliminative physicalism in which phenomenal
consciousness is to be integrated (and not eliminated) into a general
physicalistic conception of reality.
Kildevaeldsgade 75, 3. tv., DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
vestergaardmads [ at ] hotmail.com
My aim is to analyse some decisive metaphysical presuppositions made by
non-eliminative physicalism - in so far they relate to the ontology of the
living organism - and show that even if the position is more coherent then the
eliminative one it is still unacceptable. Instead of new redefinitions of the
physicalist-doctrine a biosemiotic turn in the ontology of the living is what
is called for. The argument will include three steps: firstly an immanent
critique of the non-eliminative physicalism which shows that some of the
concepts it employs exceed the limits of what could be called physicalistic
concepts and thereby contradicts their own ontological premises. Secondly I
will put to test the dichotomy of phenomenal consciousness and (the
functionally defined) mind which is basic to non-eliminative physicalism
and argue that it rests upon the condition that the teleology of the living
organism is reducible to the functionalism of computable processes. A reduction
which will be argued - reflecting on the bio-ontology of Hans Jonas - to be
ontologically unsound and empirically unverified. Thirdly the suggestion will
be made that the concept of matter needs to be redefined so the physical,
objective "stuff" also admits the possibility of being subjective,
goal-directed and to posses "meaning". Here biosemiotics offer itself as a
candidate for the empirical grounding of the necessary metaphysical
redefinition of the concept of matter - keeping in mind the close connection
between semiosis, subjectivity and teleology of which both Hans Jonas and C. S.
Peirce were aware.
Back to the page for the Gatherings 3 in Biosemiotics