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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 29, Issue 1, 2001

John Deely
Pages 27-47

Physiosemiosis in the semiotic spiral
A play of musement

A main question for semiotics today is how far does the paradigm for the action of signs, semiosis. extend. There is general agreement by now that semiosis extends at least as far as awareness or cognition occurs, which includes the entire domain of animal sign usage, or zoosemiosis. The open question today is whether semiotics is broader still, and on this question two positions have emerged. The comparatively conservative position would extend semiotics to the whole of living things. This extension was first formally proposed and argued under the label phytosemiotics, the study of an action of signs in the realm of vegetable life. The conservative faction has rallied around the label of biosemiotics. The more radical faction argues that even this extension leaves something out, namely, the physical universe at large which surrounds and upon which depends all life. The radical argument is that what is distinctive of the action of signs is the shaping of the past on the basis of furore events, a shaping that can be discerned even in the rocks and among the stars - a veritable physiosemiosis, theoretical justification and practical exploration ofwhich marks the final frontier of semiotic inquiry.

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