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(2012) The symbolic species evolved, Dordrecht, Springer.

The evolution of semiotic self-control

Frederik Stjernfelt

pp. 39-63

This chapter argues that attempts to characterize semiotic evolution by phases corresponding to sign types from Peirce's triads do not hold – so as for instance the idea of an iconic, an indexical and a symbolic phase of evolution. This is because these sign types are not compositional so that indices are not composites of icons and symbols not of indices. Instead, the perspective should be turned 180 degrees. The "highest" Peircean sign types: propositions and their linking into arguments, are present from tbe beginning of biosemiotics, albeit in a rudimentary indistinct proto-form, corresponding to Peirce's idea that propositions are genuine signs, and the whole machinery of simpler signs are but degenerate signs which occur within propositions. Selection forces the survival of truth-bearing signs – propositions (Peirce: "Dicisigns"). Evolution then subdivides, sophisticates and articulates proto-propositions, gradually achieving growing autonomy of its parts. So, instead of an ongoing construction from building-blocks, semiotic evolution is the ongoing subdivision and autonomization of a reasoning process having its first proto-form in metabolism.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-2336-8_3

Full citation:

Stjernfelt, F. (2012)., The evolution of semiotic self-control, in T. Schilhab, F. Stjernfelt & T. W. Deacon (eds.), The symbolic species evolved, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 39-63.

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