Time from Semiosis: E-series Time for Living Systems

Biosemiotics 11 (1):65-83 (2018)


We develop a semiotic scheme of time, in which time precipitates from the repeated succession of punctuating the progressive tense by the perfect tense. The underlying principle is communication among local participants. Time can thus be seen as a meaning-making, semiotic system in which different time codes are delineated, each having its own grammar and timekeeping. The four time codes discussed are the following: the subjective time having tense, the objective time without tense, the static time without timekeeping, and the inter-subjective time of the E-series. Living organisms adopt a time code called the E-series, which emerges through the local synchronization among organisms or parts of organisms. The inter-subjective time is a new theoretical dimension resulting from the time-aligning activities of interacting agents. Such synchronization in natural settings consists of incessant mutual corrections and adjustments to one’s own punctuation, which is then constantly updated. Unlike the third-person observer keeping the objective time while sitting outside a clock, the second-person negotiators participate in forming the E-series time by punctuating and updating the interface through which different tenses meet at the moment of “now.” Although physics allows physicists to be the only interpreters, the semiotic perspective upends the physical perspective by letting local participants be involved in the interpretation of their mutual negotiations to precipitate that which is called time.

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