Interactivist Summer Institute

July 22 - 26, 2003


Interaction as Natural Semiosis

Jesper Hoffmeyer


Consistent with the Peircean idea that "Nature's tendency to take habits" has to be a fundamental property of a universe which - like our own - exhibits the capacity to evolve necessities in the form af natural laws or - more broadly - constraints, biosemiotics explores "habit taking" as it proceeds through processes of life. Biosemiotics is "naturalistic" in the sense given to the term in interactivism, it is fundamentally in accordance with a process metaphysics, and the study of the diversified cases of semiotic emergence is one of its primary concerns. Biosemiotics thus in many respects are related to the set of fundamental ideas on which interctivism is based.

Central to the biosemiotic approach in theoretical biology is the Peircean notion of the sign as a triadic unity of relations between the sign vehicle, the object and the interpretant. The most general form of an interprtant is "a habit" and sign processes or semiosis thus in the Peircean vision is a general aspect our universe. For genuinly tiradic processes to take place however, asymmetries between insides and outsides must have been established in such a way that a true other-referential activity may be defined as rooted in a self-referential activity. The appearence on Earth of systems exhibiting true semiosis in this sense is seen as coinciding with the appearence of membrane defined living systems.

The paper will present a sketch of a biosemiotic view of life and discuss its relation to ecological, mental and social domaines of reality.


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