It is a well-known fact that Ernst Cassirer was inspired by his colleague, the biologist Jakob von Uexkiill at the university of Hamburg. This paper claims this inspiration was double—affecting both Cassirer's philosophical anthropology and Cassirer's epistemology of biology, but in two rather different ways. Thus, the paper intends to shed light on a corner of the history of the development of German thought of the interwar period. It may also have an actual interest because both Cassirer and Uexkiill enjoy, (...) for the time being and each in their way, a renaissance, e.g. in the recent field of biosemiotics. (shrink)
Mimicry and deception are two important issues in studies about animal communication. The reliability of animal signs and the problem of the benefits of deceiving in sign exchanges are interesting topics in the evolution of communication. In this paper, we intend to contribute to an understanding of deception by studying the case of aggressive signal mimicry in fireflies, investigated by James Lloyd. Firefly femmes fatales are specialized in mimicking the mating signals of other species of fireflies with the purpose of (...) attracting responding males to become their prey. These aggressive mimics are a major factor in the survival and reproduction of both prey and predator. It is a case of deception through active falsification of information that leads to efficient predation by femmes fatales fireflies and triggered evolutionary processes in their preys’ communicative behaviors. There are even nested coevolutionary interactions between these fireflies, leading to a remarkable system of deceptive and counterdeceptive signaling behaviors. We develop here a semiotic model of firefly deception and also consider ideas advanced by Lloyd about the evolution of communication, acknowledging that deception can be part of the explanation of why communication evolves towards increasing complexity. Increasingly complex sign exchanges between fireflies evolve in an extremely slow pace. Even if deceptive maneuvers are played out time and time again between particular firefly individuals, the evolution of the next level of complexity—and thus the next utterance in the dialogue between species—is likely to take an immense amount of generations. (shrink)
Theses on the semiotic study of life as presented here provide a collectively formulated set of statements on what biology needs to be focused on in order to describe life as a process based on semiosis, or sign action. An aim of the biosemiotic approach is to explain how life evolves through all varieties of forms of communication and signification (including cellular adaptive behavior, animal communication, and human intellect) and to provide tools for grounding sign theories. We introduce the concept (...) of semiotic threshold zone and analyze the concepts of semiosis, function, umwelt, and the like as the basic concepts for theoretical biology. (shrink)
The claim in the title of this article is now heard more and more frequently. It often comes from religious people who have themselves been targets of attack for fundamentalism, and they feel compelled to pay back this criticism in the same currency. Secularists, too, they claim, hold fast to a point of view, and this tenacity of belief is in itself deemed a fundamentalism, the religious person argues. The character of the point of view in question is of no (...) importance; the very fact that it is held is sufficient to denounce it as fundamentalism. This is a smart…. (shrink)
A basic form of iconicity in literature is the correspondence between basic conceptual schemata in literary semantics on the one hand and in factual treatments on the other. The semantics of a subject like espionage is argued to be dependent on the ontology of the field in question, with reference to the English philosopher Barry Smith’s “fallibilistic apriorism”. This article outlines such an ontology, on the basis of A. J. Greimas’s semiotics and Carl Schmitt’s philosophy of state, claiming that the (...) semantics of espionage involves politology and narratology on an equal footing. The spy’s “positional” character is analyzed on this basis. A structural difference between police and military espionage is outlined with reference to Georges Dumézil’s theory of the three functions in Indo-European thought. A number of ontological socalled “insecurities” inherent in espionage and its literary representation are outlined. Finally, some hypotheses are stated concerning the connection between espionage and literature, and some central allegorical objects — love, theology — of the spy novel are sketched, and a conclusion on the iconicity of literature is made. (shrink)
This paper gives a fIrst overview over the role of mereology the theory of parts and wholes - in semiotics. The mereology of four major semioticians - Husserl, Jakobson, Hjelmslev, and Peirce is presented briefly and its role in the overall architecture of each of their theories is outlined - with Brentano tradition as reference. Finally, an evaluation of the strength and weaknesses of the four is undertaken, and some guidelines for further research is proposed.