SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Peirce, Biosemiotics, and The Scope of Semiosis

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Biosemiotics relies on an account of semiosis, or meaning making. That account is fundamentally Peircean, using Peirce's triadicity to extend semiosis beyond human communication to all living systems. But the scope of semosis is an open question whose answer might be that not only all living systems but also some nonliving ones must be considered semiosic: an unpleasant result for the biosemiotician. This paper will demonstrate the Peircean basis of biosemiotics and examine a range of justifications for stopping semiosis at life, finding each one insufficient in distinguishing between our common conceptions of life and artifact. This problem - namely, how the biosemiotician might conceptually differentiate, say, trees from thermostats within the Peircean framework - points to an important problem for both biology and Peirce scholarship.

Author(s):

Jonathan Beever    
The Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University
United States

 

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