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Biosemiotics, the Extended Synthesis, and Ecological Information: Making Sense of the Organism-Environment Relation at the Cognitive Level

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This paper argues that the Extended Synthesis, ecological information, and biosemiotics are complementary approaches whose engagement will help us explain the organism-environment interaction at the cognitive level. The Extended Synthesis, through niche construction theory, can explain the organism-environment interaction at an evolutionary level because niche construction is a process guided by information. We believe that the best account that defines information at this level is the one offered by biosemiotics and, within all kinds of biosemiotic information available, we believe that ecological information (information for affordances) is the best candidate for making sense of the organism-environment relation at the cognitive level. This entanglement of biosemiotics, ecological information and the Extended Synthesis is promising for understanding the multidimensional character of the organism-environment reciprocity as well as the relation between evolution, cognition, and meaning.

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  1. There are more approaches and ideas at the core of the EES, such as evolutionary-developmental biology (evo-devo), but due to space constraints we will focus on niche construction and ecological inheritance as these provide the most useful aspects of the EES for emphasizing the complementarities of the EES, BE, and EP.

  2. See section 5.1 for further elaboration of this point.

  3. The issue of explaining which affordances should we choose to take advantage of over some other affordances that are equally available in our surroundings is a current debate within EP (see for example Withagen et al. 2012 or Rietveld and Kiverstein 2014). Here we merely point to the idea that BE offers some reasons to become a candidate for explaining this in biosemiotic terms.


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This research was partly funded by a Juan de la Cierva-Formación Fellowship (Gobierno de España), the Fondecyt Postdoctorado 3170685 (Chile), a project granted by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Gobierno de España (FFI2016-80088-P), and the FiloLab Group of Excellence, Universidad de Granada (Spain).

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Correspondence to Manuel Heras-Escribano.

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Heras-Escribano, M., de Jesus, P. Biosemiotics, the Extended Synthesis, and Ecological Information: Making Sense of the Organism-Environment Relation at the Cognitive Level. Biosemiotics 11, 245–262 (2018).

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