Making the Onset of Semiosis Comprehensible with Use of Quantum Physics


One common denominator between biosemiotics and quantum physics is the participation of agents detecting their surroundings. In biosemiotics, any biological agents as the internal observers including the molecular and cellular ones are involved in detecting their surroundings. Likewise, the physicist as the external observer is also involved in detecting what should be all about the physical world with use of a wide variety of sophisticated measurement apparatuses. On the other hand, the difference between the two is in the nature of the agents of detection involved there. One obvious difference is that although the physicist can report the results of measurement with use of the symbolic language, the biological beings take the indexical act of measurement to simply be a matter of experiencing. The internal observers are phenomenological in constructing something durable as participating in the construction of the phenomenon. In a similar vein, the external observer is also phenomenological in getting into interpreting the constructed durable class property of an object with use of the symbolic language. In particular, the potential use of phenomenology is not limited only to the phenomenologist as the external observer. A possible integration of both the internal and external observers may be sought within quantum phenomenology allowing for the external observer to descriptively make access to the durable objects the internal observers could eventually have constructed. The internal observers are ubiquitous in the environment that functions as the absorbers of whatever quantum particles available there.

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  1. 1.

    The indexical activity owes itself to an agent processing the cohesion acting between the pointer and the pointed. The underlying measurement is agential in manipulating the pointer. Quantum physics is convoluted in assessing the role of measurement adopted there. The initial step towards uncovering the nature of a quantum or a photon made by Max Planck has also owed itself to the concrete empirical act of measurement by the environment. Nonetheless, the later development of quantum theory has made a new collective twist after about 1925 and has tried to evaluate what quantum measurement should be all about in terms of the abstract notion called the quantum wavefunction or the quantum state. The seemingly hard problem latent here is how could something concrete particular and decidable in measurement be derived from something else that may remain at most abstract in its implication (Matsuno 2017, 2019). This issue would become most acute when one compares an ensemble of measurements with single measurements, both available from quantum phenomena. The aftermath conundrum has still been reverberating among the practitioners.

  2. 2.

    Absorption of the radiation takes advantage of the unconstrained degrees of freedom such as the vacant energy levels latent in the atoms and molecules of the local absorber. No measurement necessarily of a local character can identify what is going to be measured beforehand. For measurement is a local event that can proceed without the prior global coordination with the rest of the world. For instance, when one photon is absorbed in one of the many atoms as part of the environment by raising an electron on the ground-state level to an unoccupied excited level, the empirical fact reveals that the agency of picking up which atom out of the many likely alternatives is up to the environment itself. In this sense, the environment is agential. The likelihood of an occurrence of absorbers is already teleological in demonstrating its capacity of manipulating the absorption events to come in the immediate future. However, this agential capacity remains invisible to the external observer unless the agential consequence has been symbolized. While the external observer can be conceived of theoretically, the internal ones must be supported within the material world.

  3. 3.

    The reaction environment is non-holonomic because of the participation of a lot of reactants specified by their own reaction rates only locally. One significant consequence of the non-holonomic environment is that the environment supportive to one reactant can differ from the environment also supportive to another one in the neighborhood. This is because of the local nature of each environment with no coordination extending over to the global extent all at once.

  4. 4.

    The temporal cohesion does by no means contradict the exercise of the second law of thermodynamics which remains invincible in any case. The temporal cohesion based upon the occurrence of a reaction cycle is a de novo type of cohesion of material origin which would not be available in the vicinity of thermal equilibrium. The de novo cohesion may provide a new challenge to the second law with regard to how it could function in the actual as, say, facing the hurdle of crossing the gap between nonlife and life if ever possible. To put it simply, the second law of thermodynamics is regulatory in shaping the actual temporal cohesion as trimming those counterfactual alternatives that would be slower in their implementations as feeding upon the same quantum resources. The temporal cohesion acting in the moment of now is constantly open to what would come to emerge in the succeeding moment of the durable now. What is unique to the now is that it allows for transformation of the tenses there while no such transformation is allowed for in the present tense alone.

  5. 5.

    The issue of the likely cohesion acting between the present perfect and the present progressive tenses is related to a perennial philosophical enigma traced back even to the time of Aristotle addressing how either of continuity or discontinuity could safely be accommodated to the other (Fernández 2008; Matsuno 2018). One conspicuous reminder in the light of the semiotics of nature points to the code-duality (Hoffmeyer and Emmeche 1991). The duality presumes some capacity of cohesion acting between continuity and discontinuity or between being analog and digital. Once the issue of cohesion is squarely focused upon, the underlying issue would reduce even to that of a factually empirical nature, more than simply being a philosophical one. A relevant matter must be how the cohesion acting between the present perfect and the present progressive tenses could indexically be demonstrated in material terms. Quantum phenomenon may be a material scheme of integrating both the discontinuity marked by the perfect tense and the continuity referred to in terms of the progressive tense in a congruent manner.

  6. 6.

    Even the evolutionary emergence of self-replicating RNA must have required an integrated scheme of highly sophisticated reaction cycles.

  7. 7.

    Measurement adopted in the theory of quantum mechanics has been quite rigid in grounding itself, for instance, on the twosome of an object and a measurement apparatus, or on the threesome of an object, an apparatus and the environment as the rest of the world. The supporting vehicle is an abstraction of the unitarity or the equation of motion of the quantum mechanical origin, in which the physicist as the externalist can insist on being infallible and invincible. A merit of the externalist stance is found in that the results of external measurement can be symbolized and decidable as often revealed under the guise of their quantification with use of Born’s probability rule. In contrast, the internalist as an experiencing individual can figure out the supporting environment on its own and be durable even though admitting provisionally fallible from time to time. What is unique to the internalist stance is seen in the indexical activities latent in internal measurement. It can constantly relate the preceding indexical activities to the succeeding similar ones without taking a sudden shortcut to those symbols to be externalized (Matsuno 1985; Igamberdiev 1993). Relating the preceding indexical activities to the succeeding ones on the material ground is certainly quantum-physical in that any quantum phenomenon is relational to its supportive environment consisting of other quantum phenomena.

  8. 8.

    If the temporal cohesion is taken to be a symbol, it would be vulnerable to the charge of being succumbed to an anthropocentrism. For any symbol assumes the participation of an external subject calling it so from the outside. In contrast, an essence of the temporal cohesion is in the acts of the internal observers revisiting the errors or any inconveniences made by whatever participants internally in the past. No such errors can be referred to in the legitimate symbol manipulation practiced strictly in the present tense alone, for any discourse framed in the present tense is claimed to remain infallible there. The temporal cohesion is at most indexical and relational in bridging the chasm between the different tenses, and cannot stand alone exclusively in the present tense. Responsible for upholding the temporal cohesion are the internal observers that remain invisible to the external observer. Nonetheless, the durable products the internal observers have constructed may become visible to the external observer. The temporal cohesion can be symbolized only to the extent it refers to a durable material body maintained as crossing the different tenses back and forth repeatedly.


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Matsuno, K. Making the Onset of Semiosis Comprehensible with Use of Quantum Physics. Biosemiotics 13, 271–283 (2020).

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  • Cohesion
  • Measurement
  • Observer
  • Phenomenology
  • Quantum
  • Semiosis