A general definition of interpretation and its application to origin of life research

Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):163-181 (2010)
We draw on Short’s work on Peirce’s theory of signs to propose a new general definition of interpretation. Short argues that Peirce’s semiotics rests on his naturalised teleology. Our proposal extends Short’s work by modifying his definition of interpretation so as to make it more generally applicable to putatively interpretative processes in biological systems. We use our definition as the basis of an account of different kinds of misinterpretation and we discuss some questions raised by the definition by reference to parallel problems in the field of teleosemantics. We propose that interpretative responses fulfilling the criteria of our definition may be made by relatively simple molecular entities and we suggest two specific empirical applications of the definition to experimental work in the field of origin of life research. Our wider aim is to suggest that a well formulated naturalistic definition of interpretation will allow a re-evaluation of the role of semiotic phenomena in biological systems, including the generation of empirically testable hypotheses.
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-009-9188-4
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Stuart A. Kauffman (2000). Investigations. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).

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