, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 435–450 | Cite as

Me, Myself, and Semiotic Function: Finding the “I” in Biology

  • Gerald OstdiekEmail author


This essay argues that stable, heritable, habituated semiotics on one scale of life allows for opportunism, origination, and the solving of novel problems on others. This is grounded in how interpretation is neither caused nor determined by its object, such that success at interpretation simply cannot be defined by any comparison between an interpretation and its object. Rather, an interpretation is a reciprocated incorporation of a living thing and its environment, and successful if it furthers the living, interpreting thing. By applying biosemiotic theory to seemingly disparate studies of parasitic infections (Jaroslav Flegr), autonomic nervous systems (Stephen Porges), and social change (Charles Tilly) as well as the classical pragmatic notion that biology, psychology and sociology are disparate approaches to the singular, radically continuous, and perennial question of who (or what) am I (Dewey, James, Mead). I argue that the distinction (e.g.,) between voluntary and autonomic behavior is but a ghost of older dualisms, the pseudo-contradictions of matter v. mind, body v. soul, but also self v. not self. Moreover, all such pseudo-contradictions (individual v. social, sensation v. response, parasite v. host, and etc.) are resolved as scale thick, self-similar examples of semiotic transaction wherein degeneration or habituation on one scale of life allows for generative or novel interaction on another.


Pragmatic semiotics Heterarchy Scale-thick Inter-subjectivity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Charles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic

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