Deaths-head Jester

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[Biology Breach]


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Posted Mon Aug 23 2010: from New Scientist:
Biosemiotics: Searching for meanings in a meadow
Biology, of course, already concerns itself with information: cell signalling, the genetic code, pheromones and human language, for example. What biosemiotics aims to do is to weave these disparate strands into a single coherent theory of biological meaning.... "Biosemiotics", then, might sound like the name of some arcane mix of biological science and linguistic philosophy. Luckily, though, the true message of biosemiotics is clear: we may do better to stop thinking about the biological world solely in terms of its physical and chemical properties, but see it also as a world made up of biological signs and "meanings".... For von Uexküll, both views were wrong. Each creature in the meadow lived in "its own world filled with the perceptions which it alone knows", and it was in accordance with that experiential world - and not the entirety of the whole, unseen but physically existing world - that the creature had to coordinate its actions to eat, flee, mate and sustain itself.... [Pierce] saw logic as a formal doctrine of signs, and his theory of signs is important in modern biosemiotics. Most of us naively conceive of a "sign" as standing for something concrete: a red traffic light for most of us simply means "stop". In other words, the two things - a sign and its meaning - are directly connected in a sign relationship. Peirce, however, saw a sign as representing a relation between three things.
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