Living as Languaging: Distributed Knowledge in Living Beings

  • Anton Markoš
  • Jana Švorcová
  • Josef Lhotský


We trace life at different levels of organization and/or description: from protein ecosystems in the cell up to the cohabitation of individuals within and between historically established lineages. Ways of such cohabitation depend on experience of particular guilds or aggregates; they cannot be easily foretold from any basic level of description, they are distributed across all levels, and across all members of the community. Such phenomena of interactivity constitute a lived world which, we argue, represents a genuine analogy with domains of human cultures and languages. We draw an analogy with three levels of meaning as defined by Rappaport (Ritual and religion in the making of humanity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010) and make an attempt to show that life and languaging are virtually analogous.


Central Dogma Coherent System Bodily Experience Discrete Type Language Metaphor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Supported by the Grant Agency of Czech Republic 13-24275S, by the Charles University Project UNCE 204004 (JS), and by the Charles University Grant 43-25316 (JL). We thank Stephen Cowley for innumerable comments, and for putting the text into tolerable English. Fatima Cvrčková is the cartoons’ creator.


  1. Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walter, P. (2008). Molecular biology of the cell. New York: Garland Science. Google Scholar
  2. Allis, C. D., Jenuwein, T., & Reinberg, D. (2007). Epigenetics. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Google Scholar
  3. Anfinsen, C. B. (1973). Principles that govern the folding of protein chains. The Nobel lecture. Science, 181, 223–230. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbieri, M. (2008a). Life is semiosis: the biosemiotic view of nature. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 4, 29–51. Google Scholar
  5. Barbieri, M. (2008b). The code model of semiosis: the first steps toward a scientific biosemiotics. American Journal of Semiotics, 24, 23–37. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergman, A., & Siegal, M. L. (2003). Evolutionary capacitance as a general feature of complex gene networks. Nature, 424, 549–552. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General system theory: foundations, development, applications. New York: George Braziller. Google Scholar
  8. Carroll, S. B. (2005). Endless forms most improbable. The new science of evo devo and the making of the animal kingdom. New York: Norton. Google Scholar
  9. Cowley, S. J., & Vallée-Tourangeau, F. (2010). Thinking in action. AI & Society, 25, 469–475. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davidson, E. H. (2006). Genomic regulatory systems. Development and evolution. San Diego: Academic Press. Google Scholar
  11. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  12. Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype. London: Freeman. Google Scholar
  13. Douglas, A. E. (2010). The symbiotic habit. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  14. Eco, U. (1994). The limits of interpretation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Google Scholar
  15. Gehring, W. (1999). Master control genes in development and evolution: the homeobox story. New Haven: Yale University Press. Google Scholar
  16. Gilbert, S. F., & Epel, D. (2009). Ecological developmental biology: integrating epigenetics, medicine, and evolution. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates. Google Scholar
  17. Good, M. C., Zalatan, J. G., & Lim, W. A. (2011). Scaffold proteins: hubs for controlling the flow of cellular information. Science, 332, 680–686. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hall, B. K., Pearson, R. D., & Müller, G. (Eds.) (2004). Environment, development and evolution. Toward a synthesis. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  19. Heidegger, M. (1982 [1995]). The fundamental concepts of metaphysics. World, finitude, solitude. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Google Scholar
  20. Ho, M.-W. (1993). Rainbow and the worm. Singapore: World Scientific. Google Scholar
  21. Hoffmeister, M., & Martin, W. (2003). Interspecific evolution: microbial symbiosis, endosymbiosis and gene transfer. Environmental Microbiology, 5, 641–649. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hofstadter, D. R. (1979). Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid. New York: Basic Books. Google Scholar
  23. Kauffman, S. A. (2000). Investigations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  24. Kirsh, D. (2010). Thinking with external representations. AI & Society, 25, 441–454. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kleisner, K., & Markoš, A. (2005). Semetic rings: towards the new concept of mimetic resemblances. Theory in Biosciences, 123, 209–222. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kleisner, K., & Markoš, A. (2009). Mutual understanding and misunderstanding in biological organisms mediated by self-representational meaning of organisms. Sign Systems Studies, 31, 299–309. Google Scholar
  27. Linell, P. (2005). The written language bias in linguistics. London and New York: Routledge. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Love, N. (2004). Cognition and the language myth. Language Sciences, 26, 525–544. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Margulis, L. (1993). Symbiosis in cell evolution. New York: Freeman. Google Scholar
  30. Margulis, L. & Fester, R. (Eds.) (1991). Symbiosis as a source of evolutionary innovation. Speciation and morphogenesis. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  31. Margulis, L., & Sagan, D. (2002). Acquiring genomes: a theory of the origins of species. New York: Basic Books. Google Scholar
  32. Markoš, A. (2002). Readers of the book of life. New York: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  33. Markoš, A., & Faltýnek, D. (2011). Language metaphors of life. Biosemiotics, 4, 171–200. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Markoš, A., & Švorcová, J. (2009). Recorded vs. organic memory. Biosemiotics, 2, 131–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Markoš, A., Grygar, F., Hajnal, L., Kleisner, K., Kratochvíl, Z., & Neubauer, Z. (2009). Life as its own designer: Darwin’s origin and western thought. Dordrecht: Springer. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marks, J. (2002). What it means to be 98 % chimpanzee: apes, people, and their genes. Berkeley: University of California Press. Google Scholar
  37. Matsuda, R. (1987). Animal evolution in changing environment with special reference to abnormal metamorphosis. New York: Wiley. Google Scholar
  38. Monod, J. (1972). Chance and necessity. Glasgow: Collins. Google Scholar
  39. Overmann, J. (Ed.) (2006). Molecular basis of symbiosis. Berlin: Springer. Google Scholar
  40. Paracer, S., & Ahmadjian, V. (2000). Symbiosis. An introduction to biological associations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  41. Poe, M. T. (2011). A history of communications: media and society from the evolution of speech to the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  42. Rappaport, R. A. (2010). Ritual and religion in the making of humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  43. Redecker, D., Kodner, R., & Graham, L. E. (2000). Glomalean fungi from the Ordovician. Science, 289, 1920–1921. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rutherford, S. L., & Lindquist, S. (1998). Hsp90 as a capacitor for morphological evolution. Nature, 3(96), 336–342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sapp, J. (1994). Evolution by association: a history of symbiosis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  46. Sapp, J. (2003). Genesis: the evolution of biology. New York: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  47. Searls, D. B. (2002). The language of genes. Nature, 420, 211–217. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Simon, M. A. (1971). The matter of life: philosophical problems of biology. New Haven: Yale University Press. Google Scholar
  49. Steffensen, S. V. (2013). Human interactivity: problem-solving, solution-probing and verbal patterns in the wild. In S. J. Cowley & F. Vallée-Tourangeau (Eds.), Cognition beyond the brain: interactivity, computation and human artifice. Dordrecht: Springer. Google Scholar
  50. Švorcová, J. (2012). The phylotypic stage as a boundary of modular memory: non mechanistic perspective. Theory in Biosciences, 131, 31–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taipale, M., Jarosz, D. F., & Lindquist, S. (2010). HSP90 at the hub of protein homeostasis: emerging mechanistic insights. Nature Reviews. Molecular Cell Biology, 11, 515–528. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thibault, P. J. (2011). First-order languaging dynamics and second-order language: the distributed language view. Ecological Psychology, 23, 210–245. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Waddington, C. H. (1975). The evolution of an evolutionist. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anton Markoš
    • 1
  • Jana Švorcová
    • 1
  • Josef Lhotský
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Science, Department of Philosophy and History of ScienceCharles University PraguePraha 2Czech Republic

Personalised recommendations