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61. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull A sign is not alive — a text is
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The article deals with the relationships between the concepts of life process and sign process, arguing against the simplified equation of these concepts. Assuming that organism (and its particular case — cell) is the carrier of what is called ‘life’, we attempt to find a correspondent notion in semiotics that can be equalled to the feature of being alive. A candidate for this is the textual process as a multiple sign action. Considering that biological texts are generally non-linguistic, the concept of biotext should be used instead of ‘text’ in biology.
62. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Dominique Lestel Human/animal communications, language, and evolution
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The article compares the research programs of teaching symbolic language to chimpanzees, pointing on the dichotomy between artificial language vs. ASL, and the dichotomy between researchers who decided to establish emotional relationships between themselves and the apes, and those who have seen apes as instrumental devices. It is concluded that the experiments with the most interesting results have been both with artificial language and ASL, but with strong affiliation between researchers and animal involved in the experiments. The experiments on talking apes are not so much experiments in psycholinguistics (how far can animal learn human language) but wonderful experiments in the communities of communication between human beings and great apes.
63. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Andres Luure Understanding life: Trans-semiotic analogies
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This paper sketches a network of analogies reaching from linguosemiotics (including theory of reference in analytical philosophy of language) to biosemiotics. It results in the following proportion: attributive use of referring expressions : referential use of referring expressions : ‘generative’ use of referring expressions = signifying : referring : ‘poetic pointing’ = ‘functional’ semiosis : ‘adaptational’ semiosis : semiosis in the narrow sense.
64. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Mihhail Lotman Umwelt and semiosphere
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In the paper an attempt is made to treat the basic concepts of biosemiotics and semiotics of culture in a wide intellectual context. The three leading paradigms of the current intellectual discourse are distinguished, which could be conventionally designated as “classical”, “modern” and “postmodern”: Peirce’s semiosis stands for the classical, Umwelt for the modern and semiosphere for the postmodern semiotic space.
65. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Søren Brier Intrasemiotics and cybersemiotics
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The concept of intrasemiotics designates the semiosis of the interpenetration between the biological and psychological autopoietic systems as Luhmann defines them in his theory. Combining a Peircian concept of semiosis with Luhmann’s theory in the framework of biosemiotics makes it possible for us to view the interplay of mind and body as a sign play. The recently suggested term ‘sign play’ pertains to ecosemiotics processes between animals of the same species stretching Wittgenstein’s language concept into the animal world of signs. With intrasemiotics there is an inner interplay. Lorenz in ethology has used the concept of motivation, and Uexküll the concept of tone, mostly describing the outgoing effect on perception and the reactions on perception. One could view intrasemiotics as the interplay between Lorenz’ biologically defined motivations and Freud’s Id, understood as the psychological aspect of many of the natural drives. In the last years of development of his theory Lorenz studied how emotional feedback can introduce just a little learning through pleasurable feelings also into the instinctivesystems because, as he reasoned, there must be some kind of reward going through instinctive movements, thus making the appetitive searching behaviourfor sign stimuli possible. But he never found an acceptable way of modelling motivation in biological science. A cybersemiotic model may combine these approaches, defining various concepts of thoughtsemiotics, phenosemiotic and intrasemiotics, combining them with the already known concepts of exosemiotics, ecosemiotics, endosemiotics to an approach which studies the self-organising semiotic processes in living systems.
66. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Donald Favareau Beyond self and other: On the neurosemiotic emergence of intersubjectivity
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The explosive growth over the last two decades of neuroscience, cognitive science, and “consciousness studies” as generally conceived, remains as yet unaccompanied by a corresponding development in the establishment of an explicitly semiotic understanding of how the relations of sign exchange at the neuronal level function in the larger network of psychologically accessible sign exchange. This article attempts a preliminary foray into the establishment of just such a neurosemiotic. It takes, as its test case and as its point of departure, recent discoveries from the neurobiological research on viuso-motor transformations and on the widespread cortical phenomena of selectively tuned, single-neuron response to argue for a vision of “intersubjectivity” whereby the ens rationis arising as a function of the neuronal semiosphere may be abstracted, constructed, and shared mutually across agents.
67. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Tommi Vehkavaara Why and how to naturalize semiotic concepts for biosemiotics
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Any attempt to develop biosemiotics either towards a new biological ground theory or towards a metaphysics of living nature necessitates some kind of naturalization of its semiotic concepts. Instead of standard physicalistic naturalism, a certain kind of semiotic naturalism is pursued here. The naturalized concepts are defined as referring only to the objects of our external experience. When the semiotic concepts are applied to natural phenomena in biosemiotics, there is a risk of falling into anthropomorphic errors if the semiotic concepts remain mentalistic. It is suggested that there really is an anthropomorphic error or “hidden prototype fallacy” arising from Peirce’s prototype for semiosis: the research process of an experimental scientist. The fallacy lies in the concept of the object of representation — it is questionable whether there are any objects of representation for bacteria and whether the DNA-signs have any objects. The conclusion is that Peircean semiotic concepts are naturalizable but only if they are based on some more primitive concept of representation. The causal origins of representations are not relevant, only their anticipative consequences (i.e. meaning).
68. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Vefa Karatary, Yağmur Denizhan Evolution of the “window”
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We propose a general model that integrates meta-system transition theory with biosemiotics on the basis of an “evolvable window” metaphor. The evolution of the “window” proceeds via meta-system transitions, during which new windows are created iteratively on the “inner” side of the preexisting ones, generating a “telescope” growing inwards starting from the “outside”. The tendency of “inwards growth” of the “telescope” can be explained in terms of the following circular causality: (1) the tendency leading from unity towards individualisation, (2) individual learning providing a basis for more complex semiotic interactions, (3) creation of additional, nonconflicting “values” leading to habit formation, (4) strong control bringing forth a unification at a higher (meta-system) level. Using the proposed metaphor we hope to provide clarity to the fluctuation between objectivity and subjectivity inherent to the circular causality loop described above.
69. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Aleksei Turovski On the zoosemiotics of health and disease
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The main feature of the signs of health in the animal habitus and behaviour can be characterised as the readiness to adequately (for a species) serve the need for impression (in animalistic elements of the Umwelt). The signs of disease, however multifarious and diverse, generally display certain lack of Umwelt-oriented attentiveness, alertness. Attention of deeply afflicted animals is strongly Innenwelt-oriented; and in some species a set of such signs, suggesting sickness or mortal disease is used as a set of traits in the mimicry of dying. The semiotic factors in health-disease relationships are apparently connected with intuition — like responses creating in the semiosphere a structure of Umwelt-Innenwelt polarized tensions, important in ecological and evolutional developments.
70. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Peder Voetmann Christiansen Habit formation as symmetry breaking in the early universe
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This paper tries to combine Peirce’s cosmology and metaphysics with current understanding in physics of the evolution of the universe, regarded as an ongoing semiotic process in a living cosmos. While the basic property of Life is viewed as an unexplainable Firstness inherent in the initial iconic state of the vacuous continuum we shall consider and exemplify two sign developing processes: (a) the transition from icon to index is considered as a symmetry breaking emergence of order actualising one among the possibilities of the iconic vacuum; (b) the transition from index to symbol, regarded as a habit formation — an adaptation of the surroundings to the order that has emerged. While the iconic state is characterized by fractal self-similarity the transitions to index and symbol are modelled by the mean field theory of second order phase transitions.
71. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Luis Emilio Bruni Does “quorum sensing” imply a new type of biological information?
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When dealing with biological communication and information, unifying concepts are necessary in order to couple the different “codes” that are being inductively “cracked” and defined at different emergent and “deemergent” levels of the biological hierarchy. In this paper I compare the type of biological information implied by genetic information with that implied in the concept of “quorum sensing” (which refers to a prokaryotic cell-to-cell communication system) in order to explore if such integration is being achieved. I use the Lux operon paradigm and the Vibrio fischeri – Euprymna scolopes symbiotic partnership to exemplify the emergence of informational contexts along the biological hierarchy (from molecules to ecologies). I suggest that the biosemiotic epistemological framework can play an integrative role to overcome the limits of dyadic mechanistic descriptions when relating the different emergent levels. I also emphasise that the realisation ofbiology as being a “science of sensing” and the new importance that is being ascribed to the “context” in experimental biology corroborate past claims ofbiosemioticians about a shift from a focus on information (as a material agent of causality) towards a focus on the world of signification.
72. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Elling Ulvestad Biosemiotic knowledge — a prerequisite for valid explorations of extraterrestrial intelligent life
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The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligent life is probably one of the most ambitious projects ever taken in biology. The article discusses methodological problems associated with the search. It is emphasized that investigators of extraterrestrial intelligence, in contrast to investigators of terrestrial matters, have no valid pre-understanding of their subject matter. In this barren setting, utilization of semiotic knowledge is shown to be a prerequisite for achievement of valid data. Owing to methodological shortcomings, it is concluded that the NASA funded project SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has little if any relevance for the detection of intelligent life in other worlds.
73. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Andreas Weber Feeling the signs: The origins of meaning in the biological philosophy of Susanne K. Langer and Hans Jonas
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This paper describes the semiotic approach to organism in two proto-biosemiotic thinkers, Susanne K. Langer and Hans Jonas. Both authors develop ideas that have become central terms of biosemiotics: the organism as subject, the realisation of the living as a closed circular self, the value concept, and, in the case of Langer, the concept of symbol. Langer tries to develop a theory of cultural symbolism based on a theory of organism as a self-realising entity creating meaning and value. This paper deals mainly with what both authors independently call “feeling”. Both authors describe “feeling” as a value-based perspective, established as a result of the active self interest manifested by an organic system. The findings of Jonas and Langer show the generation of a subject pole, or biosemiotic agent, under a more precise accent, as e.g. Uexküll does. Their ideas can also be affiliated to the interpretation of autopoiesis given by the late Francisco Varela (embodied cognition or “enactivism”). A synthesis of these positions might lead to insights how symbolic expression arises from biological conditions of living.
74. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Peter Harries-Jones Where bonds become binds: The necessity for Bateson’s interactive perspective in biosemiotics
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The paper examines important discrepancies between major figures influencing the intellectual development of biosemiotics. It takes its perspective from the work of Gregory Bateson. Unlike C. S. Peirce and J. von Uexküll, Bateson begins with a strong notion of interaction. His early writings were about reciprocity and social exchange, a common topic among anthropologists of the time, but Bateson’s approach was unique. He developed the notion of meta-patterns of exchange, and of the “abduction” of these metapatterns to a variety of other phenomena, in both biology and in game theory. Later, Bateson’s concept of ecology of mind, the product of interactive phenomena, was modified by a non-purposive cybernetics. Biosemiotics has yet to adopt Bateson’s interactive stance, which is absent from Peirce’s approach to communication, of Uexküll’s functional cycles, and of Hoffmeyer’s discussion of the relation between culture and environment. Rather than pursuing notions of appropriate “subjectivity” through changed ethical response to ecological conditions (Hoffmeyer’s discussion of empathy), the paper discusses the advantages of an approach that continues to focus on conditions of paradox and pathology. Specifically, Bateson’s resolution of the relation between culture and environment arises from situations of blocked communication where ecological bonds become binds.
75. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Tom Ziemke On the epigenesis of meaning in robots and organisms: Could a humanoid robot develop a human(oid) Umwelt?
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This paper discusses recent research on humanoid robots and thought experiments addressing the question to what degree such robots could be expected to develop human-like cognition, if rather than being pre-programmed they were made to learn from the interaction with their physical and social environment like human infants. A question of particular interest, from both a semiotic and a cognitive scientific perspective, is whether or not such robots could develop an experiential Umwelt, i.e. could the sign processes they are involved in become intrinsically meaningful to themselves? Arguments for and against the possibility of phenomenal artificial minds of different forms are discussed, and it is concluded that humanoid robotics still has to be considered “weak” rather than “strong AI”, i.e. it deals with models of mind rather than actual minds.
76. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Claus Emmeche The chicken and the Orphean egg: On the function of meaning and the meaning of function
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A central aspect of the relation between biosemiotics and biology is investigated by asking: Is a biological concept of function intrinsically related to a biosemiotic concept of sign action, and vice versa? A biological notion of function (as some process or part that serves some purpose in the context of maintenance and reproduction of the whole organism) is discussed in the light of the attempt to provide an understanding of life processes as being of a semiotic nature, i.e., constituted by sign actions. Does signification and communication in biology (e.g., intracellular communication) always presuppose an organism with distinct semiotic or quasi-semiotic functions? And, symmetrically, is it the case that functional relations are simply not conceivable without living sign action? The present note is just an introduction to a project aiming at elucidating the relations between biofunction and biosemiosis.
77. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Frederik Stjernfelt Tractatus Hoffmeyerensis: Biosemiotics as expressed in 22 basic hypotheses
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This paper briefly outlines the main ideas of biosemiotics in 22 hypotheses, with special regards to the version of it claimed by Jesper Hoffmeyer.
78. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Edwina Taborsky Energy and evolutionary semiosis
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This paper sets up a thought-experiment that examines the transformation of energy into codified mass. This transformation is understood as a semiosic action of interpretation. The semiosic action is analyzed within five “predicate” or “verbal modes” which establish different processes of transformation or interpretation. These “predicate modes”, which are sign processes, take place in different areas of reality, the external realm and the internal realm. The external realm is composed of discrete objects and their interactions. Its processes are examined within classical mechanics and this paper posits a semiosic codification that is unique to these external processes. The internal realm is a holistic endoperspective with no recognition of discrete objects. Its processes are examined within quantum and field processes and this paper posits a semiosic codification that is unique to the internal processes. However, rather than promoting one or the other realm as a valid interpretation of reality, this paper suggests that both the external and internal energy-mass processes are necessary components of our universe.
79. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Alexei A. Sharov Pragmatics and biosemiotics
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Pragmatics, i.e., a system of values (or goals) in agent behavior, marks the boundary between physics and semiotics. Agents are defined as systems that are able to control their behavior in order to increase their values. The freedom of actions in agents is based on the distinction between macrocharacters that describe the state or stage, and micro-characters that are interpreted as memory. Signs are arbitrarily established relations between micro- and macro-characters that are anticipated to be useful for agents. Three kinds of elementary signs (action, perception, and association) have been developed in agents via evolution and learning to support useful and flexible behaviors. The behavior of agents can be explained, predicted, and modified using the optimality principle, according to which agents select those actions that are expected to increase their value. However, agents may select actions based on their own model of the world, which have to be reconstructed in order to predict their behavior. Pragmatics in agents can be induced, learned from individual experience or natural selection, or adopted.
80. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Stefan Artmann Three types of semiotic indeterminacy in Monod’s philosophy of modern biology
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Synthesizing important research traditions in information theory, structuralist semiotics, and generative linguistics, at least three main types of semiotic indeterminacy must be distinguished: Kolmogorov’s notion of randomness defined as sequential incompressibility, de Saussure’s principle of contingency of sign which ensures the possibility of translation between different sign systems, and Chomsky’s idea of indefiniteness in generative mechanisms as a requirement for the explanation of semiotic creativity. These types of semiotic indeterminacy form an abstract system useful for the description of concrete sign processes in their syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic dimension. In his philosophical reflections on modern biology, Jacques Monod used the conceptual opposition chance versus necessity to analyse several phenomena of indeterminacy (especially in molecular biology). The biosemiotic approach to life permits to apply the suggestedsystem of semiotic indeterminacy on these phenomena.