From Umwelt to Mitwelt: Natural laws versus rule-governed sign-mediated interactions (rsi's)

Guenther Witzany 1 , 1
  • 1 telos-Philosophische Praxis.


Within the last decade, thousands of studies have described communication processes in and between organisms. Pragmatic philosophy of biology views communication processes as rule-governed sign-mediated interactions (rsi's). As sign-using individuals exhibit a relationship to following or not-following these rules, the rsi's of living individuals dier fundamentally from cause-and-effect reactions with and between non-living matter, which exclusively underlie natural laws. Umwelt thus becomes a term in investigating physiological influences on organisms that are not components of rsi's. Mitwelt is a term for the investigation of all rsi's of organisms. Living organisms are never solus ipse subjects of semioses, but share common sets of rules and signs. Life depends decisively on symbiotic communities. Serial Endosymbiotic Theory proved that the evolution of the eukaryotic super-kingdom was a merger of anchestral bacteria. The integration of bacterial genomes into eukaryotic genomes was also a step from analog to symbolic genetic codes. Now we know, that so-called ‘junk DNA’ has higher order regulatory functions on genome architecture and protein coding DNA plays only the role of a structural vocabulary.

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The official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, founded in 1969 as one of the first scholarly journals in the field, Semiotica features articles reporting results of research in all branches of semiotic studies, in-depth reviews of selected current literature in the field, and occasional guest editorials and reports. The journal also publishes occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest.