, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 169–190

The Semiotic Body


DOI: 10.1007/s12304-008-9015-3

Cite this article as:
Hoffmeyer, J. Biosemiotics (2008) 1: 169. doi:10.1007/s12304-008-9015-3


Most bodies in this world do not have brains and the minority of animal species that do have brained bodies are descendents from species with more distributed or decentralized nervous systems. Thus, bodies were here first, and only relatively late in evolution did the bodies of a few species grow supplementary organs, brains, sophisticated enough to support a psychological life. Psychological life therefore from the beginning was embedded in and served as a tool for corporeal life. This paper discusses the semiotically controlled dynamics of bodily existence that has allowed the evolution of these seemingly ‘unnatural’ mental and even linguistic kinds of species. It is shown how the skin, on the one hand, makes us belong in the world, and on the other hand, is part of the huge landscape of membranes across which the semiotic self incessantly must be reconstituted. The discussion moves on to the intracellular world of signal transduction through which the activity of single cells are put to service for bodily needs. The paper further considers the mechanisms behind homeostasis and the semiotics of the psycho-neuro-endocrine integration in the body. The concept of semiotic emergence is introduced and a holistic marker hypothesis for why some animals may have an experiential life is suggested.


Body Self Experiential life Semiotic causation Semiotic emergence Holistic marker 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Copenhagen Biocenter, Department of Molecular BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen NDenmark

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