This paper discusses how the second order cybernetics of von Foerster, Maturana, Varela and Luhmann, can be fruitfully integrated with Peirce’s semiotics through the bio-semiotics of Hoffmeyer. The conclusion is that what distinguish animals from machines is that they are autopoietic, have code-duality and through their living organization constitutes a biological interpretant. Through this they come to inhabit a new life world: their games of life take place in their own semiotic Umwelt (von Uexküll). It is the biological context and the history of the species and the individual the determine the meaning of signs in the structural couplings that constitutes the channels of communication. Inspired by Wittgenstein’s theory of language games as the context that determines semantic content of the expressions of sentences, we suggest that animals participate in sign games.
The subject of the article is what the paradigmatic framework for a universal information science or informatics should be and what kind of science we can expect it to be. The mechanistic and rationalistic information processing paradigm of cognitive science is the dominating research program in this research area which is heavily dominated by computer science and informatics. It is pointed out that this logical and mechanistic approach is unable to give an understanding of human signification and its basis in the connotations of biological and social relationships. The paper then discusses – on the basis of previous work – the ontological and epistemological problems of the idea of “information science” and constructs an alternative non‐mechanistic view based on the idea of autopoiesis of second order cybernetics and Peirce’s concept of chaos and evolution. These ideas are related to the cybersemiotic framework for transdisciplinary research of information and communication which the author has developed in other papers. Cybersemiotics is an integration of second order cybernetics, Peirce’s triadic semiosis and Wittgenstein’s theory of language game to a non‐Cartesian cognitive science.
Excerpt: I want to show how important Uexküll’s Umwelt idea was for Konrad Lorenz ethology, how Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic concept of cognitive domain is an attempt to give a modern second order cybernetic and functionalistic development of important aspects of Uexküll’s idea with its biological theory of the observer in a general system’s evolutionary framework. Interestingly, Luhmann extended this theory into the social and linguistic domain, making it the foundation of a general theory of communication and cognition. But even this cybernetics theory of the living system’s cognition and communication do not have a true phenomenological theory of signification/semantics, which was immanent in Uexküll’s concept. Hence I work to unite second order cybernetics with Peirce’s pragmaticist semiotics within the area of biosemiotics, combining them with Wittgenstein’s language game theory and Lakoff s cognitive semantics in order to make a new transdisciplinary framework for information, cognitive, and communication sciences. I call this new framework Cybersemiotics.
Excerpt: The idea of evolution of living beings did not establish a firm foothold in the thinking of our culture until the 19th century. Evolution, though a biological concept, was nevertheless basically understood as a material change in body structure and function. In such a materialistic view great problems occur when one is trying to explain how mind came into being. How is it possible that the original “dead” world consisting of “pure” matter can foster living beings or observers with a sense of their own psychic existence?
The failure of modern science to create a common scientific framework for nature and consciousness makes it necessary to look for broader foundations in a new philosophy. Although controversial for modern science, the Peircean semiotic, evolutionary, pragmatic and triadic philosophy has been the only modern conceptual framework that can support that transdisciplinary change in our view of knowing that bridges the two cultures and transgresses Cartesian dualism. It therefore seems ideal to build on it for modern biosemiotics and can, in combination with Luhmann’s theory of communication, encompass modern information theory, complexity science and thermodynamics. It allows focus on the connection between the concept of codes and signs in living systems, and makes it possible to re-conceptualize both internal and external processes of the human body, mind and communication in models that fit into one framework.
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.
The paper investigates a semiotic conception of life. As a notion or general idea of life it is seen as a member of a set of definitions bordering science proper and philosophy of nature, here called ontodefinitions. The received view of definitions in science (according to which definitions of life are virtually non-existent or meaningless to pursue) is criticised, and the semiotic notion of life is related to the emergent character of a simple living system. Defining life as biosemiotic processes seems to imply the emergence of functionality as a kind of “biological meaning” in the physical world. The relevance of definitions is context-dependent, and one such context is Artificial Life (AL) research. A “strong version” of Artificial Life claims it possible to synthesize and thus realize life computationally or by other means. If life should be defined in terms of semiotic processes intrinsic to nature, then semiosis must be required to take place in any system that realizes life.
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.
Using the updated Google Book corpus dataset generated in July 2012, we analyze the largest available corpus of digitalized books to review social macro trends such as the secularization, politicization, economization, and mediatization of society. These familiar trend statements are tested through a comparative analysis of word frequency time-series plots for the English, French, and German language area produced by means of the enhanced Google Ngram Viewer, the online graphing tool that charts annual word counts as found in the Google Book corpus. The results: a) confirm that the importance of the political system, religion, economy, and mass media features significant change in time and considerable regional differences and b) suggest that visions of economized or capitalist societies are intellectual artifacts rather than appropriate descriptions of society. Relevance: Social systems, functional differentiation, Niklas Luhmann, Google Ngram Viewer Using the updated Google Book corpus dataset generated in July 2012, we analyze the largest available corpus of digitalized books to review social macro trends such as the secularization, politicization, economization, and mediatization of society. These familiar trend statements are tested through a comparative analysis of word frequency time-series plots for the English, French, and German language area produced by means of the enhanced Google Ngram Viewer, the online graphing tool that charts annual word counts as found in the Google Book corpus. The results: a) confirm that the importance of the political system, religion, economy, and mass media features significant change in time and considerable regional differences and b) suggest that visions of economized or capitalist societies are intellectual artifacts rather than appropriate descriptions of society.