Skip to main content

What Does it Take to Produce Interpretation? Informational, Peircean and Code-Semiotic Views on Biosemiotics

Abstract

This paper presents a critical analysis of code-semiotics, which we see as the latest attempt to create paradigmatic foundation for solving the question of the emergence of life and consciousness. We view code semiotics as a an attempt to revise the empirical scientific Darwinian paradigm, and to go beyond the complex systems, emergence, self-organization, and informational paradigms, and also the selfish gene theory of Dawkins and the Peircean pragmaticist semiotic theory built on the simultaneous types of evolution. As such it is a new and bold attempt to use semiotics to solve the problems created by the evolutionary paradigm’s commitment to produce a theory of how to connect the two sides of the Cartesian dualistic view of physical reality and consciousness in a consistent way.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Phaneroscophy is Peirce’s version of phenomenology and is different from Husserl’s and result in that different paradigms of semiotics are built on them. Randsdell (1989/1997), Hauser (2010), Brier (2011a, b), Spiegelberg (1965, pp.18-19). The phaneron is defined in Peirce's ‘Adirondack Lectures’ of 1905 in the following way:

    Phaneroscopy is the description of the phaneron; and by the phaneron I mean the collective total of all that is in any way or in any sense present to the mind, quite regardless of whether it corresponds to any real thing or not. If you ask present when, and to whose mind, I reply that I leave these questions unanswered, never having entertained a doubt that those features of the phaneron that I have found in my mind are present at all times and to all minds. So far as I have developed this science of phaneroscopy, it is occupied with the formal elements of the phaneron. (Peirce CP 1.284)

  2. We employ the concept of Wissenschaft here instead of science, as the German concept encompasses natural as well as social science and the humanities.

  3. We infer this, since this aspect is not clearly developed explicitly in Barbieri’s paradigm yet.

  4. Tychism and synechism are two fundamental paradigmatic concepts in Peirce’s semiotics. He writes most basically that tycishm is “… absolute chance -- pure tychism …” (CP 6.322, c. 1909). So Tychism is connected to firstnes as real object chance in the universe: “… Tychism, or the doctrine that absolute chance is a factor of the universe.” (CP 6.201, 1898). But that has to be integrated with the Secondness of resistance, facts and individuality to create Thirdness to mediate connections between the two in synechism. This is connected to his pragmatism; “It is that synthesis of tychism and of pragmatism for which I long ago proposed the name, Synechism.” (CP 4.584, 1906). He explains synechism as a basic philosophical principle the following way” …that tendency of philosophical thought which insists upon the idea of continuity as of prime importance in philosophy and, in particular, upon the necessity of hypotheses involving true continuity.” (CP 6.169, 1902) This deep connection between everything, including mind and matter he calls synechism. He sums it up in the following quote: “Permit me further to say that I object to having my metaphysical system as a whole called Tychism. For although tychism does enter into it, it only enters as subsidiary to that which is really, as I regard it, the characteristic of my doctrine, namely, that I chiefly insist upon continuity, or Thirdness, and, in order to secure to thirdness its really commanding function, I find it indispensable fully [to] recognize that it is a third, and that Firstness, or chance, and Secondness, or Brute reaction, are other elements, without the independence of which Thirdness would not have anything upon which to operate. Accordingly, I like to call my theory Synechism, because it rests on the study of continuity.” (CP 6.202, 1898)

  5. For a more detailed discussion, see (Joslyn 2001).

  6. Maybe in the form of a Supervenience theory? But that in our view is a sort of physicalism combined with a pseudo-emergentism that does not solve the problem of life and consciousness, qualia etc.

References

  • Apel, Karl-Otto, tr. (1981) J.M. Krois, Charles S. Peirce From Pragmatism to Pragmaticism (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1995).

  • Barbieri, M. (2009). Three types of semiosis. Biosemiotics, 2(1), 19–3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barbieri, M. (2010). On the origin of language: a bridge between biolinguistics and biosemiotics. Biosemiotics, 3(2), 201–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barbieri, M. (2011). Origin and Evolution of the Brain. Biosemiotics, 4(3), 369–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bertilsson, T. M. (2009). Peirce’s theory of inquiry and beyond. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brier, S. (2001d): Cybersemiotics: An evolutionary world view going beyond entropy and information into the question of meaning. In W. Wheeler (ed.) Biosemiotics: Nature/Culture/Science/Semiosis. JISC Open Humanities Press. http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org/books/Biosemiotics

  • Brier, S. (2008a). Cybersemiotics: Why information is not enough, Toronto: University of Toronto. New edition 2010.

  • Brier, S. (2008b). The paradigm of Peircean biosemiotics. Signs 2008, pp. 30–81. http://vip.db.dk/signs/artikler/Brier%20(2008)%20the%20paradigm%20of%20peircean%20biosemiotics.pdf

  • Brier, S. (2011a). Cybersemiotics and the question of knowledge. Chapter 1 pp.: In G. Dodig-Crnkovic and M. Burgin (Ed.). Information and Computation, World Scientific Publishing Co.

  • Brier, S. (2011b). Ethology and the Sebeokian way from Zoosemiotics to Cyber(bio)semiotics. Deely, John, Kull, Kalevi and Petrilli, Susan (eds.): Semiotics Continues to Astonish”: the Intellectual Heritage of Thomas Albert Sebeok, Chapter 4, pp. 41–84, Paris and Den Haag: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Brier, S. (2011c). Cybersemiotics, in Glossarium-BITri : http://glossarium.bitrum.unileon.es/glossary/cybersemiotics

  • Chaitin, G. (2005). Meta Math! The Quest for Omega, New York: Pantheon Books

  • Deely, J. (2001). Four ages of understanding: the first postmodern survey of philosophy from ancient times to the turn of the twenty-first century (Toronto Studies in Semiotics and Communication). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deely, J. (2009). Purely objective reality. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Deely, J. (2011). Thomas A. Sebeok and the Semiotics of the 21st Century. In Cobley, Deely, Kull and Petrelli (2011). Semiotics Continues to Astonish: Thomas Sebeok and the Doctrine f Sigs, Berlin/Bosten: De Gruytor Mouton.

  • Dodig-Crnkovic, G. (2010). The cybersemiotics and info-computationalist research programmes as platforms for knowledge production in organisms and machines. Entropy, 12(4), 878–901.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dodig-Crnkovic, G., & Müller, V. (2011). A dialogue concerning two world systems: Info-computational vs. mechanistic. In G. Dodig-Crnkovic & M. Burgin (Eds.), Information and computation. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Series in Information Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eigen, M. (1992). Steps towards life. Oxford: Oxford University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emmeche, C. (2001). Does a robot have an Umwelt? Reflections on the qualitative biosemiotic of Jakob von Uexküll. Semiotica, 134(1/4), 653–693.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fodor, J. A. (1981). Representations. Cambridge: MIT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grice, P (1957) Meaning. Philosophical Review, 66, 377–388.

  • Hauser, N. (2010). Peirce’s phenomenology and semiotics. In P. Cobley (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics (pp. 89–100). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, L. (2009). The processes of life: An introduction to molecular biology. Cambridge: MIT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joslyn, C. (2000). Levels of control and closure in complex semiotic systems. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 901, 67–74.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Joslyn, C. (2001). The semiotics of control and modeling relations in complex systems. Biosystems, 60(1–3), 131–148.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kampis, G. (1991). Self-modifying systems. Oxford: Pergamon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kauffman, S. A. (1993). Origins of order. Oxford: Oxford U Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leontiev, A. N. (2009). The development of mind. Marxists Internet Archive P.O. Box 1541; Pacifica, CA 94044; USA. Online publication http://marxists.org/archive/leontev/works/development-mind.pdf

  • Luhmann, N. (1990). Essays on self-reference. New York: Colombia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Luhmann, N. (1995). Social systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maturana, H. (1983). What is it to see? Archivos de Biologia y Medicina Experimentales, No.16, pp. 255–269.

  • Maturana, H. R. (1988a). Ontology of observing: the biological foundation of self consciousness and the physical domain of existence. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 9(1), 25–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maturana, H. (1988b). Reality: the search for objectivity, or the quest for a compelling argument. Irish Journal of Psychology, 9(1), 25–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maturana, H., & Varela, F. (1980). Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. London: Reidel.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Maturana, H., & Varela, F. (1986). Tree of knowledge: Biological roots of human understanding. London: Shambhala Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Randsdell, J. (1998). On the paradigm of experience appropriate for semiotic, (online at Arisbe).

  • Ransdell, J. (1989/1997) ‘Is Peirce a Phenomenologist?’ (online at Arisbe).

  • Rashevsky, N. (1938). Mathematical biophysics. New York: Dover.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosen, R. (1991). Life itself. New York: Columbia U Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Searle, J. R. (1970). Speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sharov, A. (2010). Functional Information: towards synthesis of biosemiotics and cybernetics. Entropy, 12, 1050–1070.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sonnesson, G. (2009). View from Husserl’s Lectern. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 16(3–4), 107–148.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spencer-Brown, G. (1972). Laws of Form, New York: Crown Publishers

  • Speigelberg, H. (1965). The phenomenological movement: A historical introduction. The Hague: Martin Nijhoff.

    Google Scholar 

  • Varela, F. G., & Maturana, H. R. (1974). Autopoiesis: the organization of living systems, its characterization, and a model. Biosystems, 5, 187–196.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • von Bertalanffy, L. (1976/68). General system theory. Foundations, Development, Applications, New York: Braziller

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Søren Brier.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Brier, S., Joslyn, C. What Does it Take to Produce Interpretation? Informational, Peircean and Code-Semiotic Views on Biosemiotics. Biosemiotics 6, 143–159 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-012-9153-5

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-012-9153-5

Keywords

  • Information
  • Codes
  • Interpretation
  • Emergence
  • Complex systems
  • Evolution
  • Consciousness
  • Peirce semiotics
  • Biosemiotics