Edwina Taborsky


This issue is devoted to an exploration of semiosic activities within a pansemiotic perspective; that is, semiosic actions within the physico-chemical, the biological and the socioconceptual realms. This broad point of view is based within the semiosic principles of Charles S. Peirce, the major thinker in this field, who wrote with an unequaled eruditeness and analytic depth about the informational dynamics that grounds our universe. The authors of these papers represent a diversity of expertise, within biology, physics, computer science, English literature, communication and culture. That, I feel, is an accurate representation of the immense scope of Peirce’s intellectual vision.

We begin this issue with my own paper, ‘The Six Semiosic Predicates’, for the reason that several papers refer to this and analogical themes. Peircean semiotics should be understood as a model of the logical relations of our universe. The keyword is ‘relations’. This is not a nominalist or externalist logic, examining individual ‘bits’ or discrete units and describing how those singularities emerge and interact.  Indeed, for Peirce, discreteness is a property emergent within a deeper or more general interaction; which is to say, within a ‘non-individual’ universal habit of relations. The Peircean analysis and model, therefore, is not focused on the individual (or the rational ideal) but is instead focused on the relations between the two, the individual and the general habit, that permit each to emerge and exist.

External classical science has focused on relations as mechanical; that is, it has understood relations as external force, whereby a discrete unit is examined ‘as itself’ and any change is due to the efficient force of another discrete unit.  Peircean relations are more complex than this dyadic mechanics. My paper has set up what I term predicates, or relations, which are to be understood as processes that enable end-points (which we experience as the discrete units) to emerge, as a form of, not simply as a result of, that interaction. That is, the interaction is not simply a ‘kick’ to the football; that kick, as well as other relations, become a material part of that football.

I have outlined, in my paper, six predicates or relations, using the Peircean modal codes of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness (1, 2, 3) and defined a relation as a dyadic action that relates and forms, two end points. For example, one relation would be Firstness-as-Firstness, which is coded as 1-1; this permits end-points that are pure feelings. Another relation would be Thirdness-as-Firstness. This is coded as 3-1. This permits end points of Law (that’s the effect of Thirdness); and end points as abstractness (that’s the effect of Firstness). Together, this predicate sets up a diagrammatic relation. If you add another nodal point to this dyad, you get the triadic reality which is the Sign, the existential individual actuality.

The next paper in this issue, by Eugenio Andrade, ‘The Emergence of Natural Hierachies as an Analog/Digital Driven Process’ deepens the exploration of the semiosic infrastructure and grounds this analysis within the biological realm. Andrade adds codal hierarchy to the process of semiosic relations, by bringing in the properties of analog codification and digital codification. These two different codal forms, also discussed by Hoffmeyer (see SEED, Vol. 2/    ) codify or ‘form’ matter in different spatial and temporal zones of reality.  The analog driven code enables a new ‘shape-space’ or actual existential reality in time and space; that is, it enables a ‘new instance’. The digital driven code develops the communal knowledge-base, using previous shape-space or actual realities, to expand its knowledge potentialities. The Sign, as a Semiotic Agent, ensures that this ‘interactor-replicator’ (analog-digital) duality is a ‘logical entanglement’. Then, he examines the six predicates within two types of emergence, that of the individual or analog-driven, and that of the communal, or digital-driven. The emergence of modifications to this dyad; that is, the evolution of functional modifications to provide a new genotype and phenotype, is outlined in an important section. The focus in this paper is the interplay in codal development between processes that are communal or genotype forms, and processes that are individual, or phenotype forms.

The third paper is by Peder Voetmann Christiansen, ‘The Semiotic Flora of Elementary Particles’.  This uses the physics of elementary particles as its empirical ground, and is focused on understanding matter/energy dynamics by classifying these particles within the six predicates model. Christiansen shows how the predicates are dyads or ‘two-link relations’ and how these relate to each other, to develop the sign, a ‘three-link-relation’. Using the basic Peircean modalities of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness, he sets up the concept of, in the same order, a potential, an actual and a general,  one-link relation. Then, using the dyad, he sets up the two-link relation, which has strong similarities to the six predicates. A minor difference is that Christiansen’s and Taborsky’s codal descriptions of these dyads are opposite; that is, his 1-3 is comparable to Taborsky’s 3-1, but, the functions remain identical. Moving on, we find that a three-link relation is the triadic Sign. Christiansen’s focus is on the two-link relation, which enables ‘two handles’ which he associates with the fundamental quantum processes of ‘preparation’ and ‘detection’, understanding the first as an Object-Representamen Relation and the second as an Interpretant-Representamen Relation.  This dyad, enabling a triadic sign, is analogous to the themes of both Andrade and Taborsky.

The fourth paper is by a group of computer science experts, Antônio Gomes, Ricardo Gudwin and Joăo Queiroz, ‘Towards Meaning Processes in Computers from Peircean Semiotics’. Again, it focuses on the relations between the external Object (O); the normative process within the Representamen Sign (S); and the Interpretant (I), and proposes an examination of this irreducible triad within computational processing. Constraints on the emergence of information (i.e., an individual sign) are examined as due to ‘relative position’ and ‘determinative relations’ between the nodes of the triad of S-O-I (sign, object, interpretant). The importance of the relative position of these three nodes, and, based on this, the determinative relations between them, is also a criterion of energy dynamics within Christiansen’s work (1997) and is, I feel, an extremely important area for further research. In this paper, the relations examined as determinants are operating as both a causal and a logical force; that is, the interaction is a cause of future behaviour, but this cause acts not merely as an efficient or mechanical cause but includes a logic of formation of that behaviour. This has analogies with both Andrade’s digital and analog entwined relations and with Christiansen’s two and three-linked relations.  The analysis is rejecting an atomic or linear algorithm and is proposing the development of a computational algorithmic process that can handle triadic relations that are, in themselves, operating on two distinct levels, made up of both micro and macro properties. Again, this has analogies with the analog and digital levels of Andrade, and the energy levels of Christiansen.

The fifth paper is by Torkild Thellefsen, ‘Semiotics of Terminology: a semiotic knowledge profile’.  This analysis is rejecting the generality of universalism and the isolate particularity of nominalism. The author is seeking a conciliation of these two extremes within a Semiotic Knowledge Organization (SKO). This theme, the reconciliation of these two levels of knowledge, reflects the themes nd questions of the previous papers, which may have used different terminology, but refer to the same dyadic ontological reality. How do these two levels interact and generate an individual experience? Thellefsen discusses several epistemological requirements. There is the Peircean necessity for fallibilism, permitting a provisory rather than final conclusion. Then, there is the rejection of randomness or arbitrariness, a process also rejected, by Andrade, Christiansen and Gomes et al., who refer to the organized emergence of a sign within a variety of codal constraints. And, the importance of habit-formation, understood as a pragmaticist orientation, associated with the future-orientation of final causality.

Finally, the sixth paper, by John Coletta and Dometa Wiegand-Schroeder, ‘Do Rocks have Desire? Renewable Historicism, Coleridge’s ‘Outness’ of Mind, and Peircean Biosemiotics’ entwines all three realms — the physico-chemical, the biological and the socioconceptual — in an exploration of meaning. Rather than relying only on a verbal text, Coletta and Wiegand-Schroeder are using diagrammes, and we must recall that for Peirce, thinking was carried out primarily within diagrammes rather than within words. The themes within this paper reinforce those of the other papers in this issue, for here too, we see a rejection of an isolate self-referentiality, comparable with the rejection of the nominalist perspective or the analog-only or single-link form, and a focus on the collective referentiality as an ‘Other’. The Sign is understood to mediate the conditions of its own production, again, a basic theme within the previous papers.

These six papers present, we suggest, an examination of the sign which supports a pansemiosis, which is to say, a process of meaning-generation, involving both ontological and epistemological realities, within both the abiotic and biotic realms of reality.