This article praises the development of second-order cybernetics by von Foerster, Maturana and Varela as an important step in deepening our understanding of the biopsychological foundation of the dynamics of cognition and communication. Luhmann’s development of the theory into the realm of social communication is seen as a necessary and important move. The differentiation between biological, psychological and socialcommunicative autopoiesis and the introduction of a technical concept of meaning is central. Furthermore, Varela’s development of Spencer Brown’s ‘Laws of Form’ from a dual to a triadic categorical basic structure is considered vital. Finally the paper shows that second-order cybernetics lacks explicit and ontological concepts of emotion, meaning and a concept of signs. C. S. Peirce’s theory is introduced for this purpose. It is then shown that both theories are triadic and second order, and therefore can be fruitfully fused to a cybersemiotics.
This paper discusses various suggestions for a philosophical framework for a trans-disciplinary information science or a semiotic doctrine. These are: the mechanical materialistic, the pan-informational, the Luhmanian second order cybernetic approach, Peircian biosemiotics and finally the pan-semiotic approach. The limitations of each are analysed. The conclusion is that we will not have to choose between either a cybernetic-informational or a semiotic approach. A combination of a Peircian-based biosemiotics with autopoiesis theory, second order cybernetics and information science is suggested in a five-levelled cybersemiotic framework. The five levels are 1) a level of Firstness, 2) a level of mechanical matter, energy and force as Secondness, 3) a cybernetic and thermodynamic level of information, 4) a level of sign games and 5) a level of conscious language games. These levels are then used to differentiate levels of information systems, sign and language games in human communication. In our model Maturana and Varela’s description of the logic of the living as autopoietic is accepted and expanded with Luhmann’s generalization of the concept of autopoiesis, to cover also to psychological and socio-communicative systems. Adding a Peircian concept of semiosis to Luhmann’s theory in the framework of biosemiotics enables us to view the interplay of mind and body as a sign play. I have in a previous publication (see list of references) suggested the term “sign play” pertaining to exosemiotics processes between animals in the same species by stretching Wittgenstein’s language concept into the animal world of signs. The new concept of intrasemiotics designates the semiosis of the interpenetration between biological and psychological autopoietic systems as Luhmann defines them in his theory. One could therefore view intrasemiotics as the interplay between Lorenz’ biological defined motivations and Freud’s Id, understood as the psychological aspect of many of the natural drives. In the last years of the development of his theory, Lorenz worked with the idea of how emotional feedback introduced just a little learning through pleasurable feelings into instinctive systems because, as he reasoned, there must be some kind of reward of going through instinctive movements, thus making possible the appetitive searching behaviour for sign stimuli. But he never found an acceptable way of modelling motivation in biological science. I am suggesting a cybersemiotic model to combine these approaches, defining various concepts like thought-semiotics, phenosemiotic and intrasemiotics, combining them with the already known concepts of exosemiotics, ecosemiotics, and endosemiotics into a new view of self-organizing semiotic processes in living systems. Thus a new semiotic level of description is generated, where mind-body interactions can be understood on the same description level.
This article praises the development of second order cybernetics by von Foerster, Maturana, and Varela as an important step in deepening our un- derstanding of the bio-psychological foundation of the dynamics of information, cognition, and communication. Luhmann’s development of the theory into the realm of social communication is seen as a necessary and important move. The triple autopoietic differentiation between biological, psychologi- cal, and social-communicative autopoiesis and the introduction of a technical concept of meaning is central. Finally, the paper shows that second order cybernetics lacks explicit and ontological concepts of emotion, meaning, and a concept of signs. C. S. Peirce’s theory is introduced for this purpose. It is then shown, through Varela’s development of Spencer Brown’s ‘Laws of Form’ from a dual to a dynamic triadic categorical structure, that both theories are triadic and second order, and therefore can be fruitfully fused to a Cybersemiotics.
Context: Radical constructivism claims that we have no final truth criteria for establishing one ontology over another. This leaves us with the question of how we can come to know anything in a viable manner. According to von Glasersfeld, radical constructivism is a theory of knowledge rather than a philosophy of the world in itself because we do not have access to a human-independent world. He considers knowledge as the ordering of experience to cope with situations in a satisfactory way. Problem: Von Foerster and Krippendorff show that the central goal of a constructivist theory of knowing must be to find a way of putting the knower into a known that is constructed so as to keep the knower, as well as the knowing process, viable in practice. Method: The conceptual and philosophical analysis of present theories and their necessary prerequisites suggests that such foundation for viable knowing can be built on the analysis of what the ontological prerequisites are for establishing viable observing, cognition, communication and observer-communicators, and communication media and vehicles. Results: The moment an observer chooses to accept his/her own embodied conscious presence in this world as well as language, he/she must accept other humans as partly independently existing conversation partners; if knowledge and knowing has to make sense, he/she must also accept as prerequisites for our observation and conversation a pre-linguistic reality from which our bodies come and which our conversation is often about. Furthermore, we can no longer claim that there is a reality that we do not know anything about: From being here in conversation, we know that the world can produce more or less stable embodied consciousnesses that can exchange and construct conceptual meanings through embodied conversations and actions that last over time and exist in space-time and mind, and are correlated to our embodied practices. We can also see that our communication works through signs for all living systems as well as in human language, understood as a structured and progressively developed system of communication. The prerequisite for this social semiotic production of meaning is the fourfold “semiotic star of cybersemiotics,” which includes at least four different worlds: our bodies, the combination of society, culture and language, our consciousness, and also an outer nature. Implications: The semiotic star in cybersemiotics claims that the internal subjective, the intersubjective linguistic, our living bodies, and nature are irreducible and equally necessary as epistemological prerequisites for knowing. The viable reality of any of them cannot be denied without self-refuting paradoxes. There is an obvious connectedness between the four worlds, which Peirce called “synechism.” It also points to Peirce’s conclusion that logic and rationality are part of the process of semiosis, and that meaning in the form of semiosis is a fundamental aspect of reality, not just a construction in our heads. Erratum: The paper erroneously refers to “pleroma.” The correct term is “plemora.”
We need to realize that a paradigm based on the view of the universe that makes irreversible time and evolution fundamental forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. The theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of communication and understanding seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in evolution? These are matters that the exact sciences are not constructed to answer in their present state. Phenomenology and hermeneutics point out to the sciences that they have prerequisite conditions in embodied living as a conscious being imbued with meaningful language and a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self-understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness. How can we integrate these two directions of explanatory efforts? The problem is that the scientific one is without concepts of qualia and meaning, and the phenomenological-hermeneutic “sciences of meaning” do not have a foundation in material evolution. Relevance: A modern interpretation of C.S. Peirce’s pragmaticistic evolutionary and phaneroscopic semiosis in the form of a biosemiotics is used and integrated with N. Luhmann’s evolutionary autopoietic system theory of social communication. This framework, which integrates cybernetics and semiotics, is called Cybersemiotics.
This paper presents a critical analysis of code-semiotics, which we see as the latest attempt to create paradigmatic foundation for solving the question of the emergence of life and consciousness. We view code semiotics as an attempt to revise the empirical scientific Darwinian paradigm, and to go beyond the complex systems, emergence, self-organization, and informational paradigms, and also the selfish gene theory of Dawkins and the Peircean pragmaticist semiotic theory built on the simultaneous types of evolution. As such, it is a new and bold attempt to use semiotics to solve the problems created by the evolutionary paradigm’s commitment to produce a theory of how to connect the two sides of the Cartesian dualistic view of physical reality and consciousness in a consistent way. Relevance: This paper relates to cybersemiotics and Maturana and Varela’s theory.
Cybersemiotics, in forging a new philosophy of science, addresses the failure of all disciplines to recognize and adequately account for qualia and motivation, interrogates the status of “knowing” contra the computational information-processing paradigm, and explores the role of the observer in knowing. The present article discusses these key features of cybersemiotics and, in particular, their consequences for biosemiotics (to which cybersemiotics is a contributor). It argues that the constructivist basis of “languaging” in the cybersemiotic project presents a potential impediment. It suggests that although “language” is clearly in question in conceptualizing “knowing” and “observing”, the main issue for cybersemiotics has to do with the more general process of “modeling” that features in biosemiotics. Whilst the future of research in the sphere of biosemiotics will be enhanced by a greater understanding of “observership”, the article argues that aspects of the relationship of constructivism and realism will need to be made clear, and that the tools for this are available closer to cybersemiotics’ home in general semiotics.
11,000-word review article of Brier, S. (2008) Cybersemiotics: Why Information is Not Enough!, Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press. Focuses on a range of issues in the volume, including von Foerster and constructivism.
Both Cybersemiotics and Info-computationalist research programmes represent attempts to unify understanding of information, knowledge and communication. The first one takes into account phenomenological aspects of signification which are insisting on the human experience “from within”. The second adopts solely the view “from the outside” based on scientific practice, with an observing agent generating inter-subjective knowledge in a research community. The process of knowledge production, embodied into networks of cognizing agents interacting with the environment and developing through evolution is studied on different levels of abstraction in both frames of reference. In order to develop scientifically tractable models of evolution of intelligence in informational structures from pre-biotic/chemical to living networked intelligent organisms, including the implementation of those models in artificial agents, a basic level language of Info-Computationalism has shown to be suitable. There are however contexts in which we deal with complex informational structures essentially dependent on human first person knowledge where high level language such as Cybersemiotics is the appropriate tool for conceptualization and communication. Two research projects are presented in order to exemplify the interplay of info-computational and higher-order approaches. The article analyzes differences and convergences of Cybersemiotics and Info-computationalist approaches which by placing focus on distinct levels of organization, help elucidate processes of knowledge production in intelligent agents.
This paper challenges the prevalent metaphor of human cognition as a von Neumanntype (1945) computational process. This computational model of cognition is flawed because it fails to recognize the crucial role of an embodied observer’s capacity for semiosis in any computational process. The paper argues against the computational model of cognition on epistemological, theoretical, practical, and ethical grounds. It affirms Brier’s (1996) cybersemiotic framework, which states that semiosis is the organism’s selection of environmental perturbations in the attempt to satisfy its own needs. The paper identifies the primary computational steps involved in the Turing (1936) machine and the von Neumann (1945) architecture, as well as those of three common applications of artificial intelligence. It then argues that each of these computational processes requires one or more of the human capacities for abstraction, purposive control of the physical environment, and judgment. It concludes that fully autonomous, self-adapting computers in some imagined utopian (or dystopian) future would diverge from human evolutionary relevance because they are incapable of semiosis.