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81. 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.
82. 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.
83. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Jesper Hoffmeyer Obituary: Thomas A. Sebeok
84. 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.
85. 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.
86. 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.
87. 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.
88. 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.
89. 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.
90. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1
Claus Emmeche, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull Editors’ comment
91. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Peeter Torop Translation as translating as culture
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The most common difficulty in translation studies has traditionally been the dilemma between the historical and synchronic approaches in the analysis and description of the culture of translation. On the one hand the culture of translation might be presented as the sum of various kinds of translated texts (repertoire of culture), on the other hand it might be described as the hierarchy of the various types of translations themselves. The first approach assumes plenty of languages for such description, in the latter one suggests only one language for the same representation. A cultural critic faces the same problems. In these perspectives the translation reveals important mechanisms of the performance of culture. First of all it is the semiotic interpretation of the theory of translation, introduced by the number of scientists beginning with R. Jakobson and including U. Eco who put together interlinguistic, intra-linguistic, and inter-semiotic translations, so crucial for the further understanding of culture. As a result, the general notion of culture might be described as the process of total translation. And secondly, the othervaluable contribution to the theory of translation has been made by both M. Bakhtin and J. Lotman in terms of the synthesis of two traditions in semiotics of culture resulted in juxtaposing such notions as dialogism and autonomy — creolization, polyphony, counterword, and translation.
92. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Marina Grishakova Towards the semiotics of the observer
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The problem of the observer and point of view is examined within the broad semiological and cognitive perspective. Structuralist narratology made an attempt of a formal-linguistic classification of points of view to avoid anthropomorphic-visual connotations inherent in narratological terminology. The alternative opportunity would be the usage of terms-metaphors as theoretical models. From the point of view of the observer, the process of text generation evolves in the double space of perception/conception and interpretation. Instead of comparing different media in terms of the privileged metalanguage, it would be more fruitful to base the comparison upon their immanent cognitive characteristics.
93. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Kalevi Kull Copenhagen, Tartu, world: Gatherings in biosemiotics 2002
94. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Julia Kristeva Thinking about literary thought
95. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Marcello Barbieri Organic codes: Metaphors or realities?
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Coding characteristics have been discovered not only in protein synthesis, but also in various other natural processes, thus showing that the genetic code is not an isolated case in the organic world. Other examples are the sequence codes, the adhesion code, the signal transduction codes, the splicing codes, the sugar code, the histone code, and probably more. These discoveries however have not had a significant impact because of the widespread belief that organic codes are not real but metaphorical entities. They are supposed to lack arbitrariness and codemakers, the two qualifying features of real codes. Here it is shown that the arbitrariness issue can be solved on an experimental basis, while the codemaker issue is dependent on our theoretical description of the cell and can only be solved by a new concept. In order to appreciate the reality of the organic codes, in short, it is necessary to have not only a more critical evaluation of the experimental data but also a new theory of the living system.
96. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Kestutis Nastopka Two approaches to the myth of city foundations: Syntagmatic and paradigmatic
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The paper discusses the myth of the founding of Vilnius as an example of a myth of city foundation. The myth has received two independent semiotic interpretations. Narrative grammar procedures are applied to the analysis of the mythical story and the semantic code generating the story in the paper “Gediminas’ Dream (Lithuanian myth of city foundation: an attempt at analysis)” by Algirdas Julien Greimas (1971). The sovereignty ideology expressed in the myth, which describes religious and spiritual culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is linked to the tri-functional model of the Indo-European social structure. The semantics of the Vilnius myth is seen as analogous with such Indo-European myths as king’s accession to the throne and creation of a city-state. The Lithuanian myth of Vilnius is linked paradigmatically to the Indo-European mythology in the study “Vilnius, Wilno, Vil’na: City and myth” by Vladimir Toporov (1980). At the level of the signifier, phonological equivalents of toponyms of Vilnius are traced. At the level of the signified, transformations of the “core” Indo-European myth are identified. The myth of the city foundation can be read both as a figurative form of cultural expression and as an ideology narrated as a plot of a story. In this view, the paradigmatic and syntagmatic approaches complement each other.
97. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Thomas G. Winner How did the ideas of Juri Lotman reach the West?
98. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Peet Lepik On universalism in connection with the interpretation of magic in the semiotics of Juri Lotman
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The article examines the first phase of the universalistic interpretations in Juri Lotman’s semiotics, which is characterized by holism and maximalism derived from the Saussurean cultural concept. There is an analysis of Juri Lotman’s 1967 lecture, previously unpublished, where universal status is accorded to text functions (including magic functions). Such an approach is a substantial revision of the Saussurean understandings of the relationship between language and speech. This interpretation of magic is compared with the examination of the same concept in Juri Lotman’s 1981 article “Contract and self-sacrifice as archetypical cultural models”, which substantially contradicts the concept developed in his 1967 lecture. Both these magic models produce a number of objections, and apparently seem to bear the deforming traces of their respective universalistic theoretical schema.
99. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Linnar Priimägi Pure visual metaphor: Juri Lotman’s concept of rhetoric in fine arts
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Salvador Dalí’s oilpainting Hallucination partielle. Six apparitions de Lénine sur un piano (1931) has been considered to be one of the most difficult works to interpret. O. Zaslavskii has analyzed it, using the sound of the words in title and the items depicted on the masterpiece, “the phonetic subtext”. Obviously, Zaslavskii’s interpretation is based on Osip Mandelstam’s poem “Grand piano” (1931), that in the context of Russian language associates the piano ( ) with the French Revolution. Nevertheless, Zaslavskii’s final conclusion of the connections between Dalí’s painting and the French Revolution turns to be accurate, because it is possible to find iconographic parallels between Dalí’s “Partial hallucination…” and Jacques-Louis David’s “The death of Marat” (1793). On at least four most significant oil paintings from the beginning of Dalí’s surreal period we can observe his “emblem of love and death” as the combination of fellatio and bleeding. Obviously, he understood in the same code also Marat’s murdering by the knife of a woman. This allows us to insist, that Dalí was inspired to paint“Partial hallucination…” by “The death of Marat”. The shadow of a grand piano on his painting “Diurnal illusion: the shadow of a grand piano approaching” (1931) directly bears the meaning of “terror” and “fear”. In such motif combination and graphic parallel, the complex cultural metaphoric relations of these two paintings can be viewed. This complex can be considered as rhetorical in the sense of Juri Lotman’s conception. But it is evidently a case of “pure visual metaphor”, not an illustration of verbal metaphors.
100. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Bruno Osimo On psychological aspects of translation
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Translation science is going through a preliminary stage of self-definition. Jakobson’s essay “On linguistic aspects of translation”, whose title is re-echoed in the title of this article, despite the linguistic approach suggested, opened, in 1959, the study of translation to disciplines other than linguistics, semiotics to start with. Many developments in the semiotics of translation — particularly Torop’s theory of total translation — take their cue from the celebrated category “intersemiotic translation or transmutation” outlined in that 1959 article. I intend to outline here the contributions that the science of translation — following a semiotic perspective opened by Peirce and continued by Torop — can gather from another discipline: psychology. The “totalistic” approach to translation provided by Torop can be more deeply enforced by applying to it the consequences deriving from the psychological insight offered by the concept of “interpretant” as mental sign; the perceptual interpretation of the prototext; reading and writing as intersemiotic translation processes; unlimited semiosis as interminable analysis; primary and secondary process in dreams and in other kinds of translation; metaphor and disambiguation as mental processes; the defenses activated when translation criticism (review) and self-criticism (revision) are made.