, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 383–397 | Cite as

Synergy of Energy and Semiosis: Cooperation Climbs the Tree of Life

  • Eliseo FernándezEmail author


The course of biological evolution is regarded by many authors as an ascending path toward higher levels of variety, complexity and integration. There are similar but partly conflicting accounts of the nature and causes of this ascending course. With the aim of reaching a unified conception I start by summarily reviewing three notable examples. These are, in their latest presentations, those of Hoffmeyer and Stjernfelt 2015, Szathmáry 2015, and Lane 2015a. Comparison of their commonalities and divergences, combined with further reflections, leads to the following views: 1) cooperation (synergy) between preexistent traits and processes is the primary determinant in the emergence of evolutionary novelty; 2) cooperation is a triadic relation similar to semiosis (while semiosis is a particular form of cooperation); 3) regulation, the key element of both metabolism and replication, results from the cooperation of energetic and semiotic causation; 4) conceptual generalization (as in scientific reasoning) and concrete generalization (as in biological evolution) are fruits of cooperation. Conceptual generalizations spring from the cooperation of ideas. I believe these realizations supply essential elements for a unified view of the ascent of biological evolution towards higher levels of organization. Some of these conceptions are also applicable to similar ascending trajectories through the stages of cultural and technological evolution.


Evolutionary transitions Regulation Cooperation Generalization Peirce 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linda Hall Library of Science and TechnologyKansas CityUSA

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