, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 467–483 | Cite as

The Forbidden Signs

  • Mogens KilstrupEmail author


While the field of semiotics has been active since it was started by Peirce, it appears like the last decade has been especially productive with a number of important new concepts being developed within the biosemiotics community. The novel concept of the Semiotic scaffold by Hoffmeyer is an important addition that offers insight into the hardware requirements for bio-semiosis. As any type of semiosis must be dependent upon Semiotic scaffolds, I recently argued that the process of semiosis has to be divided into two separate processes of sign establishment and sign interpretation, and that misalignment between the two processes result in faulty sign interpretation and over-signification. Such faulty signs were forbidden in the sign classification system of Peirce, so I defined them as forbidden signs. Here I present an analysis of the forbidden sign categories with examples from Occult semiotics. I also show that biological semiosis offers examples of forbidden signs, where the faulty interpretation of signs may lead to decimation of whole evolutionary lines of organisms. A new concept of Evolutionary memory which is applicable to both human and biological semiosis is explained as the combination of two processes; one leading to diversity generation within semiotic scaffolds followed by a second process of decimation of faulty signs during selection in specific learning environments. The analysis suggests that forbidden signs are always used as early stages in the iterative sign establishment process during semiosis.


Peirce Semiotic Scaffold Evolutionary Memory Decimation Sign Establishment Bacteria 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Metabolic Signaling and Regulation Group, DTU Systems BiologyTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark

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