Semiosis and Information: Meeting the Challenge of Information Science to Post-Reductionist Biosemiotics

Biosemiotics 13 (3):327-346 (2020)
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The concept of information and its relation to biosemiotics is a major area of contention among biosemioticians. Biosemioticians influenced by von Uexküll, Sebeok, Bateson and Peirce are critical of the way the concept as developed in information science has been applied to biology, while others believe that for biosemiotics to gain acceptance it will have to embrace information science and distance biosemiotics from Peirce’s philosophical work. Here I will defend the influence of Peirce on biosemiotics, arguing that information science and biosemiotics as these were originally formulated are radically opposed research traditions. Failure to appreciate this will undermine the challenge of biosemiotics and other anti-reductionist traditions to mainstream science with its reductionist ambition to explain everything through physics. However, for this challenge to be successful, it will be necessary to respond to criticisms of Peircian ideas, jettisoning ideas that are no longer defensible and integrating ideas allied to his anti-reductionist agenda. Here I will argue that the natural philosophy of Gilbert Simondon, offering a searching critique of the application of the new concept of information and cybernetics to the life and human sciences, provides the means to defend and advance Peirce’s core ideas and thereby defend post-reductionist biosemiotics.

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Arran Gare
Swinburne University of Technology


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