Biosemiotics and Applied Evolutionary Epistemology: A Comparison.

In Nathalie Gontier & M. Facoetti (eds.), In: Pagni E., Theisen Simanke R. (eds) Biosemiotics and Evolution. Interdisciplinary Evolution Research, vol 6. Springer, Cham. Cham: pp. 175-199 (2021)
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Abstract

Both biosemiotics and evolutionary epistemology are concerned with how knowledge evolves. (Applied) Evolutionary Epistemology thereby focuses on identifying the units, levels, and mechanisms or processes that underlie the evolutionary development of knowing and knowledge, while biosemiotics places emphasis on the study of how signs underlie the development of meaning. We compare the two schools of thought and analyze how in delineating their research program, biosemiotics runs into several problems that are overcome by evolutionary epistemologists. For one, by emphasizing signs, biosemiotics needs to delineate a semiotic threshold, which is a problem not encountered by evolutionary epistemologists. Instead, the latter recognizes that all organisms are knowers that evolve knowledge, which they recognize to extend toward phenomena produced by organisms such as behavior, cognition, language, culture, science, and technology. Secondly, biosemiotics attempts at continuing adaptationist notions on how organisms relate to their environment, while especially Applied Evolutionary Epistemology comes to redefine the nature of the organism–environment relationship in such a way that it recognizes the spatiotemporal boundedness of existence, which in turn makes adaptationist accounts obsolete.

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