Mind & Society

, 6:173 | Cite as

Towards the emergence of meaning processes in computers from Peircean semiotics

  • Antônio Gomes
  • Ricardo Gudwin
  • Charbel Niño El-Hani
  • João QueirozEmail author
Original Article


In this work, we propose a computational approach to the triadic model of Peircean semiosis (meaning processes). We investigate theoretical constraints about the feasibility of simulated semiosis. These constraints, which are basic requirements for the simulation of semiosis, refer to the synthesis of irreducible triadic relations (Sign–Object–Interpretant). We examine the internal organization of the triad S–O–I, that is, the relative position of its elements and how they relate to each other. We also suggest a multi-level approach based on self-organization principles. In this context, semiosis is described as an emergent process. Nevertheless, the term ‘emergence’ is often used in a very informal way in the so called ‘emergent’ computation, without clear explanations and/or definitions. In this paper, we discuss in some detail the meaning of the theoretical terms ‘emergence’ and ‘emergent’, showing how such an analysis can lead to improvements of the algorithm proposed.


Meaning Semiosis Emergence Simulation C. S. Peirce 



This article is a revised version of the paper presented at the Second European Conference Computing and Philosophy (E-CAP2004), held at the University of Pavia, Italy (June 3–5, 2004) and chaired by Lorenzo Magnani.


  1. Batali J (1994) Innate biases and critical periods: combining evolution and learning in the acquisition of syntax. In: Brooks R, Maes P (eds) Artificial life IV. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 160–171Google Scholar
  2. Batali J (1998) Computational simulations of the emergence of grammar. In: Hurford J, Studdert-Kennedy M, Knight C (eds) Approaches to the evolution of language—social and cognitive bases. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 405–426Google Scholar
  3. Bedau M (1998) Philosophical content and method of artificial life. In: Bynam T, Moor J (eds) The digital phoenix: how computers are changing philosophy. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, pp 135–152Google Scholar
  4. Bedau M (2002) Downward causation and autonomy of weak emergence. Principia 6(1):5–50Google Scholar
  5. Blitz D (1992) Emergent evolution: qualitative novelty and the levels of reality. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  6. Brunning J (1997) Genuine triads and teridentity. In: Houser N, Roberts D, Evra J (eds) Studies in the logic of Charles Sanders Peirce. Indiana University Press, Indiana, pp 252–270Google Scholar
  7. Burch R (1991) A Peircean reduction thesis. Texas Tech University Press, TexasGoogle Scholar
  8. Cangelosi A (2001) Evolution of communication and language using signals, symbols, and words. IEEE Trans Evol Comput 5(2):93–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cangelosi A, Parisi D (1998) The emergence of a language in an evolving population of neural networks. Connect Sci 10(2):83–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cangelosi A, Turner H (2002) L’emergere del linguaggio. In: Borghi A, Iachini T (eds) Scienze della Mente. Il. Mulino, Bologna, pp 227–244Google Scholar
  11. Cariani P (1989) On the design of devices with emergent semantic functions. Binghantom, State University of New York, New York (Doctoral Dissertation)Google Scholar
  12. Deacon T (1997) Symbolic species: the co-evolution of language and the brain. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Deacon (1999) Memes as signs. The semiotic review of books 10(3):1–3Google Scholar
  14. El-Hani C (2002) On the reality of emergents. Principia 6(1):51–87Google Scholar
  15. El-Hani C, Emmeche C (2000) On some theoretical grounds for an organism-centered biology: property emergence, supervenience, and downward causation. Theory Biosci 119:234–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. El-Hani C, Queiroz J, Emmeche C (2006) A semiotic analysis of the genetic information system. Semiotica 160(1/4):1–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ellefson M, Christiansen M (2002) Linguistic adaptation without linguistic constraints: the role of sequential learning in language evolution. In: Wray A (ed) The transition to language. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 335–358Google Scholar
  18. Emmeche C (2003) Causal processes, semiosis, and consciousness. In: Seibt J (ed) Process theories: cross disciplinary studies in dynamic categories. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 313–336Google Scholar
  19. Fetzer J (1997) Thinking and computing: computers as special kinds of signs. Minds Machines 7:345–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gomes A, Gudwin R, Queiroz J (2003a) On a computational model of Peircean semiosis. In: Hexmoor H (ed) Proceedings of the international conference on integration of knowledge intensive multi-agent systems—KIMAS 2003, IEEE, pp 703–708Google Scholar
  21. Gomes A, Gudwin R, Queiroz J (2003b) Towards meaning processes in computers from Peircean semiotics. SEED 2: 69–79, available at:
  22. Gudwin R, Queiroz J (eds) (2006) Semiotics and intelligent systems development. Idea Group Publishing, HersheyGoogle Scholar
  23. Houser N (1997) Introduction: Peirce as a logician. In: Houser N, Roberts D, Evra J (eds) Studies in the logic of Charles Sanders Peirce. Indiana University Press, Indiana, pp 1–22Google Scholar
  24. Hurford J (1991) The evolution of the critical period for language acquisition. Cognition 40(3):159–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hutchins E, Hazlehurst B (1995) How to invent a lexicon: the development of shared symbols in interaction. In: Gilbert G, Conte R (eds) Artificial societies: the computer simulation of social life. UCL Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Kent B (1997) The interconnectedness of Peirce’s diagrammatic thought. In: Houser N, Roberts D, Evra J (eds) Studies in the logic of Charles S. Peirce. Indiana University Press, Indiana, pp 445–459Google Scholar
  27. Kirby S (1999) Learning, bottlenecks and infinity: a working model of the evolution of syntactic communication. In: Dautenhahn K, Nehaniv C (eds) Proceedings of the AISB 1999 symposium on imitation in animals and artifacts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 55–63Google Scholar
  28. Kvasnicka V, Pospichal J (1999) An emergence of coordinated communication in populations of agents. Artif Life 5:319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Loula A, Gudwin R, Ribeiro S, Araújo I, Queiroz J (2004) A proposal for a synthesis approach of semiotic artificial creatures. In: de Castro L, Von Zuben F (eds) Recent developments in biologically inspired computing, Idea Group Inc., Chapter 11Google Scholar
  30. Loula A, Gudwin R, Queiroz J (eds) (2006) Artificial cognition systems. Idea Group Publishing, HersheyGoogle Scholar
  31. MacLennan BJ (2001) The emergence of communication through synthetic evolution. In: Patel M, Honavar V, Balakrishnan K (eds) Advances in the evolutionary synthesis of intelligent agents, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 65–90Google Scholar
  32. McLaughlin B (1992) The rise and fall of British emergentism. In: Beckermann A, Flohr H, Kim J (eds) Emergence or reduction? Essays on the prospects of nonreductive physicalism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, pp 49–93Google Scholar
  33. Murphey M (1993) The development of Peirce’s philosophy. Hackett, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  34. Parisi D (2001) Simulazioni—la realtà rifatta nel computer. IlMulino, BolognaGoogle Scholar
  35. Parisi D, Cangelosi A (2002) A unified simulation scenario for language development, evolution and historical change. In: Cangelosi A, Parisi D (eds) Simulating the evolution of language, Springer, London, pp 255–329Google Scholar
  36. Parker K (1998) The continuity of Peirce’s thought. Vanderbilt University Press, NashvilleGoogle Scholar
  37. Peirce C (1931–1935) The collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Electronic edition reproducing vols. I–VI Hartshorne C, Weiss P (eds) Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1931–1935. Charlottesville: Intelex CorporationGoogle Scholar
  38. Peirce C (1958) The collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Electronic edition reproducing vols. VII–VIII Burks A (ed) Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1958. Charlottesville: Intelex CorporationGoogle Scholar
  39. Peirce C (1967) Annotated catalogue the papers of Charles S. Peirce. In: Robin R (ed) The University of Massachusetts Press, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  40. Peirce C (1992, 1998) (EP1, EP2) The Essential Peirce. Selected Philosophical Writings. vol. 1 (1867–1893) Houser N, Kloesel C (ed) vol. 2 (1893–1913) Indiana University Press, Bloomington–IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  41. Perfors A (2002) Simulated evolution of language: a review of the field. J Artif Soc Soc Simul 5(2)Google Scholar
  42. Popper K, Eccles J (1977, 1986) The self and its brain, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London Google Scholar
  43. Queiroz J, El-Hani C (2006a) Semiosis as an emergent process. Trans Charles Sanders Peirce Soc 42(1):78–116Google Scholar
  44. Queiroz J, El-Hani C (2006b) Towards a multi-level approach to the emergence of meaning processes in living systems. Acta Biotheor 54(3):174–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ransdell J (1977) Some leading ideas of Peirce’s semiotic. Semiotica 19(3/4):157–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ransdell J (1983) Peircean semiotics (unpublished)Google Scholar
  47. Ronald E, Sipper M, Capcarrère M (1999) Design, observation, surprise! A test for emergence. Artif Life 5:225–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Salthe S (1985) Evolving hierarchical systems: their structure and representation. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith A, (2002) Intelligent meaning creation in a clumpy world help communication. Artif Life 1, 9(2):175–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Steels L (1997) The synthetic modeling of language origins. Evol Commun 1(1):1–37Google Scholar
  51. Steels L (1999) The talking heads experiment. vol I. Words and meanings. Pre-Edition. VUB Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, LABORATORIUM, AntwerpenGoogle Scholar
  52. Steels L, Kaplan F (1999) Situated grounded word semantics. In: Dean T (ed) IJCAI 1999 Proceedings of the 16th international joint conference on artificial intelligence, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco, CA, vol 2. pp 862–867Google Scholar
  53. Steels L, Kaplan F, McIntyre A, Van Looveren J (2002) Crucial factors in the origins of word-meaning. In: Wray A (ed) The transition to language. Oxford Press, Oxford, pp 252–271Google Scholar
  54. Stephan A (1998) Varieties of emergence in artificial and natural systems. Z Naturforsch 53c:639–656Google Scholar
  55. Stephan A (1999a) Emergenz: Von der Unvorhersagbarkeit zur Selbstorganisation. Dresden University Press, DresdenGoogle Scholar
  56. Stephan A (1999b) Varieties of emergentism. Evol Cogn 5(1):49–59Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Fondazione Rosselli 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antônio Gomes
    • 1
  • Ricardo Gudwin
    • 1
  • Charbel Niño El-Hani
    • 2
  • João Queiroz
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.DCA/FEEC/UNICAMPCampinas(SP)Brazil
  2. 2.Institute of BiologyFederal University of BahiaSalvador-BABrazil
  3. 3.Graduate Studies Program on History, Philosophy, and Science TeachingFederal University of Bahia/State University of Feira de SantanaFeira de SantanaBrazil

Personalised recommendations