In this article, the author provides a brief introduction to a completely new theory in Semantics, Operational Semantics (OS), which concerns the meaning of the basic linguistic elements that are indispensable for any linguistic expression, i.e., the fundamental “grammatical” words and morphemes. Even if in the text there is no explicit reference to constructivism, OS could be relevant for constructivist approaches, since its fundamental presupposition is that the meanings of these linguistic elements are mainly sequences of elemental mental operations (amongst which those of attention play a key role) that are actively carried out by the subject.
Context: The constructivist approach to the definition (or analysis) of the fundamental meanings of language in Ernst von Glasersfeld’s work. Problem: Has this approach achieved better results than other approaches? Method: Review of a book chapter by von Glasersfeld that is devoted to the analysis of the concepts of “unity,” “plurality” and “number.” Results: The constructivist approach to the semantics of the fundamental elements of language (some of which are fundamental for sciences too) seems to have produced positive results; moreover these are in a field where other approaches have produced results that do not objectively seem satisfactory.
Models of cognition and language currently in use as frameworks for computer applications present a clear disequilibrium: they neglect productive mental activities, as for instance synthesis, and over-estimate receptive ones, as analysis. The paper focuses on the Kantian concept of object-synthesis as a basic mental mechanism and underlines its importance for an equilibrated model of cognitive processing. Integration of the Kantian approach with Ceccato’s model of mental operations could allow to implement synthetic operations in computer applications. A syntactic parser (von Glasersfeld and Pisani, 1970) which implements Ceccato’s approach to cognition, semantics and linguistics is reproposed to the attention of AI researchers: it could be used as a basis for a modern implementation of object-synthesis in knowledge representation and natural language processing.
Purpose: At Silvio Ceccato’s suggestion, I invited Ernst von Glasersfeld to the “Séminaire Leibniz” which took place in Brussels, in February 1961. The paper he delivered then, Operational Semantics: Analysis of Meaning in Terms of Operations, was included in a Euratom internal report and is published here for the first time. Conclusion: These early works clearly show von Glasersfeld’s methodological and philosophical coherence as well as his faithfulness to Ceccato’s endeavour.
In the context of the question of the emergence of mind in evolution the present paper argues that the concept of linguistic motivation, through the theory of embodiment in cognitive semantics, can be connected with the concept of motivation in ethology. This connection is established through Lakoff and Johnson’s embodied cognitive semantics on the one hand and on the other hand through the theory of biosemiotics. The biosemiotics used is based on C. S. Peirce´s semiotics and the work of J. von Uexkull. Motivation will in this context be understood as a decisive factor in determining which kind of interpretant a living system constructs when perturbed by a significant disturbance in its signification sphere. From this basis the concept of sign stimuli in Ethology, based on the concept of innate release response mechanism (IRM,) is paralleled with the concept of embodied metaphorical categorization based on the concept of idealized cognitive models (ICM). It is realized that we are dealing with motivation on two different levels, that of the linguistic and that of the perceptual-behavioral level. The connection is made through pragmatic language and sign theory viewing language as getting its meaning through language games integrated in cultural life forms and animals signs to get their meaning through sign games and natural life forms. Further connection is made through the common insight of the significant role of embodiment to create signification through the construction of a signification sphere. The later concept is a Peircian biosemiotic conceptualization of von Uexkull’s orginal Umwelt concept.
This article addresses the problem of the differentiation of a law system, based on a systemic analysis of the process in Chile. Since this is a reflection of a more formal character, many of the conditions discussed here may be found in other Latin American countries, even though the analysis is exemplified by the Chilean case. The article presents the central concepts of the theory of differentiation, discusses the problem of the autonomy of law as a condition of differentiation and presents trends, problems and semantics of the process in Chile. The article concludes with reflections on Latin America. Relevance: The article analyses the path of social differentiation of the legal system in Chile from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory.
This chapter outlines a broad theory of sign use in natural and artificial systems that was developed over several decades within the context of theoretical biology, cybernetics, systems theory, biosemiotics, and neuroscience. Different conceptions of semiosis and information in nature are considered. General functional properties of and operations on signs, including measurement, computation, and sign-directed actions are described. A taxonomy of semiotic systems is built up from combinations of these operations. The respective functional organizations and informational capabilities of formal systems and computempiral-predictive scientific models, percept-action systems, purposive goal-seeking systems, and self-constructing systems are discussed. Semiotic relations are considered in terms of Morrisean semiotic triad of syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics. Analysis of statetransition structure is used to demarcate functional boundaries, such as epistemic and control cuts. Capabilities for open-ended behavior, combinatoric and emergent creativity, and umwelt expansion are taken up. Finally, basic problems of neurosemiotics, neural coding, and neurophenomenology are outlined.
Context: Traditional research on the fiction/non-fiction distinction is the fruit of an essentialist methodology in which the procedures of ontologizing and textualizing are assumed as obligatory. Ontologizing and textualizing form the basic discursive technique, in which analyses are focused on the object as the semantic centre. Theory of literary fiction – deeply rooted in Alexius Meinong’s theory of non-existent objects – is object-orientated and, as a result, is always ontologically involved/engaged. Problem: The re-description of the fundamental literary problems as a kind of epistemological experiment for which non-dualizing philosophy is a foundation. Considerations are aimed at providing answers/solutions to the three following issues: 1. Is it possible to connect non-dualism with a literary discourse about literary fiction? 2. What difference does the non-dualizing perspective make in comparison to a philologically-orientated discourse? 3. What difference does the non-dualizing perspective make in comparison to the constructivist approach to the problem of fiction? Approach: Mitterer’s non-dualism is considered from both the context of ontologically-orientated discourse about fiction and literary research and the context of constructivist discourse about fiction. Results: Mitterer’s non-dualizing conception may be considered a foundation of a radical non-essentialist way of thinking about literary fiction. As a result, the philologically-orientated research on literary text, focused on the explanation of its semantics, would rather move towards a culturally-, pragmatically-, and/or sociologically- orientated type of discourse. The notion of (literary) fiction should be reformulated as follows: fiction is not the reason for interpretation; fiction is the result of interpretation because the description comes from the object of speech (from-object-cognition). Implications: This is only an introduction to the project of a potential non-ontologizing discourse about literary fiction. Therefore it should be developed and discussed as the option for the dualizing type of the discourse as it still stirs up a lot of controversies.
Open peer commentary on the article “Radical Constructivism and Radical Constructedness: Luhmann’s Sociology of Semantics, Organizations, and Self-Organization” by Loet Leydesdorff. > Upshot: Leydesdorff emphasises the uncertainties involved in the communication of meaning. Luhmann posited three types of media, each of which reduces one type of communicative improbability. The theory of cultural evolution supports Leydesdorff’s emphasis on the uncertainty of communication, and agrees that different media are needed for communication within and across social boundaries. But it highlights the distinction between media and the symbolic codes that give them structure; and it raises the question whether Luhmann’s symbolically generalized communication media are really media at all.
Excerpt: The “systems reply,” for example, states that it may not be the syntax alone, but the whole system – the syntax and the physics (the person, but also the room, the Chinese characters, the rule ledger, etc.) – that generates the semantics. My intention in this paper is not to champion the systems reply or to use it to defend Strong AI. But I’ll take the systems reply as my point of departure, and I’ll begin by asking: What precisely are the elements of the system, or what other elements need to be added to the system if we are to explain semantics? I’ll develop this view along lines that also incorporate aspects of the “robot reply,” which argues that the system has to be embodied in some way, and exposed to the world outside of the CR. This kind of approach has already been outlined by others (Rey 1986; Harnad 1989, 2002; and especially Crane 2003), but I don’t follow these lines back to the position of an enhanced and strengthened AI. Properly constructed, this hybrid systems/robot reply – or what I’ll call more generally, the systems approach – doesn’t lead us back to the tenets of Strong AI, but can actually serve Searle’s critique. Indeed, I’ll suggest that the best systems approach is already to be found in Searle’s own work, although Searle misses something important in his rejection of the systems reply and in framing his answer to the question of semantics in terms of the biological nature of the brain.