Sunday, December 4, 2011

Biosemiotics/Introduction - Books

Biosemiotics/Introduction - Books

Peirce’s logical inference of abduction (Gk. μεταφέρω metafero – to carry; hence metaphor Gk. μεταφορά metafora – to carry away, via iconic signs, meaning from one place to another) is based on the iconicity of metaphor (and the primary ‘Universe of Firstness’ – see below). As I write in my own contribution to this Living Book, ‘Gregory Bateson and Biosemiotics’:

abduction is the only logic which introduces newness: induction merely confirms that something is so; deduction draws out further logical implications. But a genuinely new development (let us call it an ‘idea’ – whether natural or cultural) requires a mysterious and incalculable move. Peirce called it informed guessing, or a hunch or animal-like intuition: a semiotic operation, but hidden from view (Peirce, 1998a: 216-8). Bateson, working out of cybernetic understandings, thought about the problem of abduction in terms of systems consisting essentially of information as positive (excitatory) and negative (dampening) feedback. Biosemiotics, of which Bateson was an important precursor, recasts ‘information’ as semiosis in living systems. In biosemiotic thought, living systems are thus conceived as cybersemiotic systems, and this introduces a rather different sense of ‘mind’ and ‘idea’. A ‘mind’, as Bateson recognised, is something much more like an ecology in which ‘information’ (semiosis) circulates in a complex symphony of causes, feedback, and further effects (signs) (Wheeler, 2010: 41).

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