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61. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 2
Andreas Schönle Lotman in an interdisciplinary context: A symposium held at the University of Michigan
62. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 2
Kalevi Kull A note on biorhetorics
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This article analyses the possibility to look at living systems as biorhetorical systems. Rhetorics of biology, which studies the rhetoric of biological discourse, is distinguishable from biorhetorics, which attempts to analyse the expressive behaviour of organisms in terms of primordial (unconscious) rhetoric. The appearance of such a view is a logical consequence from recent developments in new (or general) rhetorics on the one hand (e.g., G. A. Kennedy's claim that rhetoric exists among social animals), and from the biosemiotic approach to living systems on the other hand.
63. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Kaie Kotov Semiosphere: A chemistry of being
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The concept of semiosphere coined by Lotman in analogy of Vernadsky’s biosphere can be considered as a starting point for the new model in the semiotics of culture that enables us to conceptualise the human culture in its great diversity, as well as a certain single system as a part of this diversity. Present article will clarify some points of dissonance between Lotman and Vernadsky, as well as consider the dual influence of Vernadsky and Prigogine on the workings of the semiosphere in relation to the cultural dynamics. As a conclusion, the article entertains the idea that if we take the comparison with Vernadsky a bit further, the concept of semiosphere could be reinvented rather as a main transformative force of the (human) environment.
64. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Anton Markoš, Fatima Cvrčková Back to the science of life
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We give a survey of epistemological and ontological approaches that have left traces in the 20th-century biology. A common motive of most of them is the effort to incorporate biology into the realm of physical sciences. However, such attempts failed, and must fail in the future, unless the criterion for what science is becomes biologically oriented. This means broadening the realm of classical natural sciences, incorporating at least part of the thesaurus of the “humanities”. We suggest three mutually complementary candidates for further development in this direction: modular biology, the hermeneutics of the living, and the semiotic disciplines.
65. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Abir U. Igamberdiev Biological evolution — a semiotically constrained growth of complexity
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Any living system possesses internal embedded description and exists as a superposition of different potential realisations, which are reduced in interaction with the environment. This reduction cannot be recursively deduced from the state in time present, it includes unpredictable choice and needs to be modelled also from the state in time future. Such non-recursive establishment of emerging configuration, after its memorisation via formation of reflective loop (sign-creating activity), becomes the inherited recursive action. It leads to increase of complexity of the embedded description, which constitutes the rules of generative grammar defining possible directions of open evolutionary process. The states in time future can be estimated from the point of their perfection, which represents the final cause in the Aristotelian sense and may possess a selective advantage. The limits of unfolding of the reflective process, such as the golden ratio and the golden wurf are considered as the canons of perfection established in the evolutionary process.
66. 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.
67. 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.
68. 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.
69. 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.
70. 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.
71. 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.
72. 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).
73. 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.
74. 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.
75. 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.
76. 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.
77. 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.
78. 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.
79. 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.
80. 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.