Naturalizing Models: New Perspectives in a Peircean Key

Abstract

This paper reconsiders semiotic modelling in light of recent scholarship on Charles Peirce, particularly regarding his concept of proposition. Conceived in the vein of Peirce’s phenomenological categories as well as of his taxonomy of signs, semiotic modelling has mostly been thought of as ascending from simple, basic sign types to complex ones. This constitutes the backbone of most currently accepted semiotic modelling theories and entails the further acceptance of an unexamined a priori coherence between complexity of cognition and complexity of signification. Following recent readings of Peirce’s post-1900 semiotic, we engage in a discussion as to what are the limits of this approach. From Stjernfelt’s conception of the dicisign in nature, we derive a perspective that affords understanding the practice of modelling as a reciprocal interplay between (top-down) decomposition of complexity and (bottom-up) recombination into further complexity. This discussion is facilitated by the recent extrapolation of the (initially) constructivist concept of scaffolding in biosemiotics research. Cognition, we argue, begins with a fundamental irritation of trying to make sense of a structure that is more complex than what can directly be derived from experience and, in so doing, urges meaning-seeking (abductive) processes. The yet unknown object is decomposed into more tangible objects and is subsequently reassembled from these more manageable conceptions of the object. In support of our argument, we discuss the notions of semiotic competences and resources in light of such a naturalized account of meaning-making.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Complex in the sense that it is dynamic and not totally reducible to production rules, that is, computations, see Campbell (2017); Kull (2018); Nadin (2014, 2017).

  2. 2.

    Note how recent research in cognitive semiotics and cognitive linguistics often models and observes some developmental progression from firstness to secondness to thirdness, or iconic modelling to indexical modelling to symbolic modelling. For example, see the cognitive/ontogenetic perspectives of Zlatev (2009, 2013), Zlatev and Andrén.(2009). See Campbell (2019), who addresses the relevance of Sebeok and Danesi’s Peircean influenced modelling for education and edusemiotics.

  3. 3.

    Case in point: the interpretation of Peirce in Derrida´s On Grammatology (1976: 49–50). Derrida was clearly fascinated with the idea of unlimited semiosis, but not receptive to the idea of the dependence of semiosis on the dynamical object and its terminus in habit. For a Peircean critique of this view, which is outside of the scope of the present paper, see Eco (1995). Some of us have previously commented on this issue, e.g. Feil (2017: 232) and Feil and Olteanu (2018: 207).

  4. 4.

    See, https://philosophasters.org/blog/2018/8/13/from-plato-to-peirce-an-interview-with-winfried-noth.

  5. 5.

    Olteanu and Stables (2018: 421) explain further: “from its beginning, biosemiotics was defined by Sebeok [e.g. 1991, 2001a]… as a modelling theory and, while useful for cognitive theories as well, it does not impose any particular assumption about cognition. Thus, from this perspective, a theory of learning does not necessarily imply a discussion on cognition. An educational theory and system can conceive learning in terms of signification only”.

References

  1. Atã, P., & Queiroz, J. (2016). Habit in Semiosis: Two Different Perspectives Based on Hierar- chical Multi-level System Modeling and Niche Construction Theory: Before and Beyond Consciousness. In E. Donna, West, Myrdene & Anderson (Eds.), Consensus on Peirce’s Con- cept of Habit. Springer (pp. 109–119). Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bruner, J. S. (1957). Going beyond the information given. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge: Belknap.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell, C. (2017). Learning that reflects the living: aligning Anticipation and edusemiotics. Public Journal of Semiotics, 8(1), 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Campbell, C. (2018a). Returning ‘learning’ to education: Toward an ecological conception of learning and teaching. Σηµειωτκή-Sign Systems Studies, 46(4), 538–568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Campbell, C. (2018b). In search of our beginnings: Locating ‘firstness’ in arts education in the service of advocacy. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 19(13), 1–36.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Campbell, C. (2019). Educating semiosis: Foundational concepts for an ecological edusemiotic. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 38(3), 291–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Campbell, C., Olteanu, A., & Kull, K. (2020). Learning and knowing as semiosis: Extending the conceptual apparatus of semiotics. Sign Systems Studies, 47(3/4), 352–381.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cassirer, E. (1944). An Essay on Man: An introduction to a philosophy of human culture. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Cobley, P., & Stjernfelt, F. (2015). Scaffolding development and the human condition. Biosemiotics, 8(2), 291–304.

  12. CP = Peirce, C. S. The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. (Hartshorne, Charles; Weiss, Paul, eds. 1931–1935; Burks, Arthur W., ed. 1958.) Cambridge: Belknap.

  13. Deacon, T. (1997). The Symbolic Species: The co-evolution of language and the brain. New York: W. W. Norton & Co: Lon don.

  14. Deacon, T. (2012a). Incomplete Nature: How mind emerged from matter. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Deacon, T. (2012b). The symbol concept. In: Maggie Tallerman; Kathleen R. Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 393–405.

  16. Deely, J. (1990). Basics of semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Derrida, J. (1976). Of grammatology. trans. In Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. [original publication 1967].

    Google Scholar 

  18. Dewey, J. (1925). Experience and nature. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Eco, U. (1995). Unlimited semeiosis and drift: Pragmaticism vs.‘pragmatism’. In K. Ketner (Ed.), Peirce and contemporary thought (pp. 205– 221) New York: Fordham University Press.

  20. Eco, U. (2000). [1997]. In Kant and the platypus: Essays on language and cognition. New York: Harcourt Brace.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Eco, U. (2014). From the tree to the labyrinth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Favareau, D. (Ed.). (2010a). Essential readings in biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Favareau, D. (2010b). Introduction: An evolutionary history of biosemiotics. In D. Favareau (Ed.), Essential Readings in Biosemiotics (pp. 1–77). Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Feil, S. (2017). What are we appealing to? A Semiotic Approach to the Notion of Context in Literary Studies. KODIKAS/CODE. Ars Semeiotica, 40(3–4), 221–238.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Feil, S., & Olteanu, A. (2018). Abduction, hermeneutics and the interpretation of interpretations. Human Arenas, 1(2), 206–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gould, S. J., & Vrba, E. S. (1982). Exaptation – a missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology, 8(1), 4–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hoffmeyer, J. (2007). Semiotic scaffolding of living systems. In Marcello Barbieri (ed.) Intro duction to Biosemiotics (pp. 149–166). Berlin: Springer.

  29. Hoffmeyer, J. (2015a). Introduction: Semiotic scaffolding. Biosemiotics, 8(2), 153–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hoffmeyer, J. (2015b). Semiotic scaffolding of multicellularity. Biosemiotics, 8(2), 159–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hoffmeyer, J. (2015c). Semiotic scaffolding: a unitary principle gluing life and culture together. Green Letters, 19(3), 243–254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hoffmeyer, J., & Stjernfelt, F. (2016). The great chain of semiosis. Investigating the steps in the evolution of semiotic competence. Biosemiotics, 9, 7–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Ingold, T. (2017). Anthropology and/as education. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Jaroš, F., & Maran, T. (2019). Humans on top, humans among the other animals: Narratives of anthropological fifference. Biosemiotics, First online. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-019-09364-w.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kallen, H. (1956). Cultural pluralism and the American idea: An essay in social philosophy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Koopman, C. (2009). Pragmatism as transition: Historicity and hope in James, Dewey, and Rorty. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communica- tion. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Kress, G., & Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Arnold.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Kull, K. (2003). Thomas A. Sebeok and biology: building biosemiotics. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 10(1), 47–60.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Kull, K. (2015). Evolution, choice, and scaffolding: Semiosis is changing its own building. Biosemiotics, 8(2), 223–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Kull, K. (2018). Choosing and learning: Semiosis means choice. Sign Systems Studies, 46(4), 452–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Kull, K. (2019). Steps towards the natural meronomy and taxonomy of semiosis: Emon between index and symbol. Sign Systems Studies, 47(1/2), 88–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Conceptual metaphor theory in everyday language. The Journal of Philosophy, 77(8), 453–486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its chal- lenge to western thought. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Langacker, R. (1990). Concept, image, and symbol: the cognitive basis of grammar. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

  46. Legg, C. (2017). ‘Diagrammatic teaching’: The role of iconic signs in meaningful pedagogy. In I. Semetsky (Ed.), Edusemiotics—A Handbook (pp. 29–45). Singapore: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Lotman, J. (1977). Primary and secondary communication-modeling systems. In D. Lucid & Peri (Eds.), Soviet Semiotics: An Anthology (pp. 95–98). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Lotman, J. (1990). Universe of the mind. Trans. Shukman, Ann. Intr. Eco, Umberto. London: I. B. Tauris.

    Google Scholar 

  49. MacLarnon, A. (2012). The anatomical and physiological basis of human speech production: Adaptations and exaptations. In K. R. Gibson & M. Tallerman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution (pp. 224–235). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. MacLarnon, A., & Hewitt Gwen, P. (1999). The evolution of human speech: the role of enhanced breathing control. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 109(3), 341–363.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Maran, T. (2020). Applied ecosemiotics: Ontological basis and conceptual models. In P. Cobley & A. Olteanu (Eds.), Semiotics and its masters. Forthcoming: Mouton De Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Mead, G. H. (1972 [1934]). Mind, self and society. Ed. Charles Morris; Intr. Charles Morris. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  53. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1995). La nature. Notes. Cours de Collège de France. Paris: Seuil.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Merrell, F. (1996). Signs grow: Semiosis and life processes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Nadin, M. (2014). Semiotics is fundamental science. In M. Jennex (Ed.), Knowledge Discovery, Transfer, and Man agement in the Information Age (pp. 76–125). Hershey: Information Science Reference.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Nöth, W. (2018). The semiotics of models. Sign Systems Studies, 46(1), 7–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Olteanu, A. (2019). Multiculturalism as multimodal communication: A semiotic perspective. Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Olteanu, A., & Stables, A. (2018). Learning and adaptation from a semiotic perspective. Sign Systems Studies, 46(4), 409–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Pearson, C. (2017). Eight Common Fallacies of Elementary Semiotics. Chinese Semiotic Studies, 13(4), 339–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Pietarinen, A.-V. (2004). Multi-agent systems and game theory—A Peircean manifesto. Inter- national Journal of General Systems., 33(4), 395–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Prodi, G. (1988). Signs and codes in immunology. In E. Sercarz, F. Celada, A. Mitchison & T. Tado (Eds.), The Semiotics of Cellular Communication in the Immune System. Berlin: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Randviir, A., & Cobley. Paul 2010. Sociosemiotics. In P. Cobley (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics. New York: Routledge, 118–134.

  63. Reybrouck, M. (2012). Musical Sense-Making and the Concept of Affordance: An Ecosemiotic and Experiential Approach. Biosemiotics, 5(3), 391–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Reybrouck, M. (2015). Music as Environment: An Ecological and Biosemiotic Approach. Behavioral Sciences, 5(1), 1–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Rorty, R., & Ed, M. (1967). The linguistic turn: essays in philosophical method with two retro spective essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Salthe, S. N. (2010). What is Semiotics? Review of the Routledge Companion to Semiotics. Biosemiotics, 3(2), 245–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Scalia, J. C. (2019). Towards a holo-semiotic framework for the evolution of language. In A. Olteanu, A. Stables & D. Borţun (Eds.), Meanings & Co.: The Interdis- ciplinarity of Semiotics, Communication and Multimodality (pp. 89–104). Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Sebeok, T. (1965a). Animal communication. Science, 147, 1006–1014.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Sebeok, T. (1965b). Zoosemiotics: A new key to linguistics. The Review,7, 27–33.

  70. Sebeok, T. (1976). Contributions to the doctrine of signs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Sebeok, T. (1986). The problem of the origin of language in an evolutionary frame. Language Sciences, 8(2), 169–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Sebeok, T. (1991). A sign is just a sign: Advances in semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Sebeok, T. (2001a). [1994]. In Signs: An introduction to semiotics. Toronto: University of Tor- onto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Sebeok, T., & Danesi, M. (2000). The forms of meaning: Modelling systems theory and se- miotic analysis. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Sebeok, T.A. (2001b). Nonverbal communication. In P. Cobley (Ed.), The Routledge Com- panion to Semiotics and Linguistics (pp. 14–27). New York: Routledge.

  76. Sharov, A., Maran, T., & Tønnessen, M. (2016). Comprehending the semiosis of evolution. Biosemiotics, 9(1), 1–6.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Stables, A., & Bishop, K. (2001). Weak and strong conceptions of environmental literacy: Implications for environmental education. Environmental Education Research, 7(1), 89–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Stjernfelt, E. Jens-Martin, Frederik (2012). The democratic contradictions of Multiculturalism. New York: Telos Press.

  79. Stjernfelt, F. 2006. The semiotic body. A semiotic concept of embodiment? In Nöth, Win- fried (Ed.), Semiotic Bodies, Aesthetic Embodiments and Cyberbodies. Kassel: Kassel Uni versity Press, 13–48.

  80. Stjernfelt, F. (2007). Diagrammatology. An investigation on the borderlines of phenomenol- ogy, ontology and semiotics. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Stjernfelt, F. (2012). The evolution of semiotic self-control. In T. Schilhab, F. Stjernfelt & T. Deacon (Eds.), The Symbolic Species Evolved (pp. 39–63). Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Stjernfelt, F. (2014). Natural propositions: The actuality of Peirce’s doctrine of dicisigns. Boston: Docent Press.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Stjernfelt, F. (2015). Dicisigns: Peirce’s semiotic doctrine of propositions. Synthese, 192(4), 1019–1054.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Stjernfelt, F. (2016). Dicisigns and habits: Implicit propositions and habit-taking in Peirce’s pragmatism. In E. Donna, West; M. & Anderson (Eds.), Consensus on Peirce’s Concept of Habit (pp. 241–262). Springer Cham: Springer.

  85. Tønnessen, M., Maran, T., & Sharov, A. (2018). Phenomenology and biosemiotics. Biosemiotics, 11(3), 323–330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. von Uexküll, J. (1926). Theoretical biology. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

    Google Scholar 

  87. von Uexküll, J. 2010 [1934, 1940]. A foray into the worlds of animals and humans with a theory of meaning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  88. Wheeler, W. (2008). ‘Do not block the path of inquiry!’ Peircean abduction, the tacit dimension, and biosemiotic creativity in nature and culture. The American Journal of Semiotics, 24(1/3), 171–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  89. Zlatev, J. (2009). The semiotic hierarchy: Life, consciousness, signs and language. Cognitive Semiotics, 4, 169–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  90. Zlatev, J. (2013). The mimesis hierarchy of aemiotic development: Five stages of intersubjectivity in children. Public Journal of Semiotics, 4(2), 47–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. Zlatev, J., & Andrén, M. (2009). Stages and transitions in children’s semiotic development. In J. Zlatev, M. Andrén, M. Johansson-Falck & C. Lundmark (Eds.), Studies in Language and Cognition (pp. 380–401). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Nadin, M. (Ed.). (2017). Anticipation and the brain. In Anticipation and Medicine (pp. 147–175). New York: Springer.

Download references

Acknowledgements

For this research, Alin Olteanu received funding from the Estonian Research Council (MOBJD346).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alin Olteanu.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Olteanu, A., Campbell, C. & Feil, S. Naturalizing Models: New Perspectives in a Peircean Key. Biosemiotics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-020-09385-w

Download citation

Keywords

  • Modelling
  • C. S. Peirce
  • Synechism
  • Scaffolding
  • Cognition
  • Complexity
  • Proposition
  • Iconicity
  • Diagrammatic reasoning