List of abstracts

for Gatherings in Biosemiotics 3, Copenhagen, 2003.


"Homo semeiosis"--A guess at the riddle of the evolution of human language

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

Myrdene Anderson

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Purdue University, 700 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059, USA

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

Marcello Barbieri

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 natural objects.

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 Nature.


Scientific Values and Biosemiotics:

Christian Baron

c/o Jens Høgh, Zoological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen Ø Denmark.
CBaron [ at ] zi.ku.dk

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.

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

Mette Böll

The Biosemiotics Group, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83, DK 1307 Copenhagen K, Denmark
metteboell [ at ] get2net.dk

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.


Similarities and differences between Second Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Biosemiotics

Søren Brier

Royal School of Veterinary and Agricultural Science, Dept. of Economics and Natural Resouces, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Fredriksberg C., Denmark.
sbr [ at ] kvl.dk

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 are:

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 the environment.


Notes towards a Semiotics of Parasitism.

Han-liang Chang

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

Graduate Institute of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Taiwan University
angie_chien [ at ] hotmail.com

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.

Keywords: schemata, images, ontogeny, phylogeny, Umwelt, nervous system, nerve-cell sign.


Energy-bond-graphs - a semiotic formalization of modernphysics.

Peder Voetmann Christiansen

Roskilde University, Dept. of Mathematics and physics, P.O. box 260, DK 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
pvc [ at ] ruc.dk.

1. History.
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 quantum mechanics.

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 Peirce:
1. iCONS, i.e. pictorial representations of basic system properties. Theseproperties can be divided in three classes according to Peirce's threephenomenological categories:
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 time.
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 covariant tensor-formalism.

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: quantum-semeiotic.


Sign action and emergent intentionality in bacterial chemotaxis.

Claus Emmeche (*) and Frederik Stjernfelt (**)

(*) 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

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.


Biosemiotic Constructivism and the Ethics of Irreversibility

Donald F. Favareau

Department of Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
favareau [ at ] ucla.edu

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?

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 answering none.


Hermeneutic approach to the phenomenon of the living

Filip Grygar

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 it.
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?

László Hajnal

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

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 appropriate?

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, after all.

This research is supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, grant no. 106/02/1357


The Ecosemiotic Turn in Technology

Jesper Hoffmeyer

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.

Peter Harries-Jones

Department of Anthropology, York University, Ontario, 24, Highview Crescent, Toronto M6H 2Y2, Canada.
peterhj [ at ] yorku.ca

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.


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 semiotic perspective.

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 dichotomy.


Substructures in the Peircean sign triad.

Mogens Kilstrup

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 territory)

Biological Aging and Death in a Peircean Perspective

Mia Krause

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

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.


Organic needs, and other problems in biosemiotics.

Kalevi Kull

Institute of Zoology and Botany, Riia St. 181, 51014 Tartu, Estonia.
kalevi [ at ] zbi.ee

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.


From Peircean Interpretative to Generative Semiotic:
Structure Formation and Interaction in Life, Psyche, and Culture as Conceived in Semiotic Ecology.

Alfred Lang

University of Bern, Switzerland. Address: Hostalen 106, CH-3037 Herrenschwanden-Bern, Switzerland.
Web: http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/
alfred.lang [ at ] psy.unibe.ch

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.


Coping with Complexity - a Bioinformatics perspective

Thomas Schou Larsen

Novozymes A/S, Krogshoejvej 36, DK-2880 Bagsværd, Denmark
thsl[ at ]novozymes.com

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.


Causality and functionality: metaphysics and semiotics.

Andres Luure

University of Tartu, Estonia
andresl [ at ] lin.ehi.ee

In a neo-Aristotelian framework the semiotical nature of the material and formal aspects of the biological functionality is described.


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" procedure.

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

Dario Martinelli

Tähkäkuja 5 k 144, 01370 Vantaa - Finland.
dario.martinelli [ at ] helsinki.fi
www.zoosemiotics.helsinki.fi

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.

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 sciences.

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 life.

Christophe Menant

75 Rue G. Mandel 33000 Bordeaux France
crmenant [ at ] free.fr

In this paper, we use the Meaning Generator System (MGS) presented at Gathering in Biosemiotics 2 [1] 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 of life.

[1] http://www.biosemiotics-semiotics.fr.st/

[added note: link to the presentation: http://crmenant.free.fr/Biosemiotics3/INDEX.HTM ]


Cognitive processes of constructing internal models of the environment

Toshiyuki Nakajima

Department of Biology and Earth Sciences, Ehime University, 2-5 Bunkyo-cho, Matsuyama, Ehime790-8577, JAPAN
nakajima [ at ] sci.ehime-u.ac.jp

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 environment.


What is the meaning of pheromone to a moth?

Stephen Philip Pain

c/o Brown, Kongensgade 15, 1. sal, 5000 Odense C. Denmark.
berlin55[ at ]excite.com

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.
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 (**)

(*) Center for the Biological and Health Sciences, University North of Paraná, Brazil.
barrospires [ at ] uol.com.br
(**) Massachusetts Institute of technology, Center for advanced visual studies, Brazil.
automata [ at ] uninet.com.br

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).


The emergence of referential symbolic process in non-human primates communication: a zoosemiotic analysis based on the Peircean extended theory of sign

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, USA
(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 communication.

Mailing address:
João Queiroz, Av. Rouxinol, 837-61, Moema - São Paulo - SP, Brasil - 04516-001
(academic)
DCA - FEEC - UNICAMP, Caixa Postal 6101, 13083-970 Campinas, SP, BRAZIL
www.digitalpeirce.org/joao


Are Cognitive Ethology and Classical Ethology mutually exclusive?

Kim Rasmussen

Institute of Philosophy and Science Studies & Institute of Environmental Biology, Roskilde University, Postbox 260, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
Kims [ at ] postman.dk

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 exclusive.


Uexkülls "Institut für Umweltforschung" - Biosemiotics in action?

Torsten Rüting

Universität Hamburg, Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften,Mathematik und Technik, Bundesstr. 55, D-20146 Hamburg
rueting [ at ] .math.uni-hamburg.de

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 action?


From Natural Diversity to Enzyme Diversity

Mikako Sasa

Novozymes A/S, Krogshoejvej 36, DK-2880 Bagsværd, Denmark
misa[ at ]novozymes.com

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 specific application.


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?

Adam Skibinski

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

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 modern biosemiotics.
Key words: time-binding, cultural evolution, code-duality, self-reference


Interpretive Symmetry: The Semiotic Measurement and Formation of Reality

Edwina Taborsky

Bishop's University
taborsky [ at ] primus.ca

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.
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 the network.
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.


Representing Life:
Graphical Models for the Fundamental Processes of Life

Georg Toepfer

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 organism.


Biosemiotics as objective ethics and esthetics?

Tommi Vehkavaara

Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Philosophy, FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
tommi.vehkavaara [ at ] uta.fi
http://www.uta.fi/~attove

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 themselves.

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 nature.

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

Mads Vestergaard

Kildevaeldsgade 75, 3. tv., DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
vestergaardmads [ at ] hotmail.com

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.

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.


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