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Beyond teleonomy: Towards a biology of semiotic realism

From the book Volume 2

  • Donald Favareau


“In actual existence,” notes John Deely “every substance and every accident is maintained by realities of circumstance and being other than itself” (2001: 228). Accordingly, all things - including and, perhaps most especially, organisms - arise and are maintained within a dense web of inextricably interwoven relationships. Thus the question for modernist science, since at least the time of Ockham, becomes whether or not such ‘relationships’ per se can be said to have a genuine, and sometimes end-directed, existence in their own right (the doctrine of semiotic realism), or whether they are merely the linguistic and analytical constructions of we observers, which we impose upon our acts of apprehending the conjoint activity of particular things (the doctrine of nominalism, which today mostly takes the form of scientific instrumentalism). Recent advances both in biology and in semiotics, it is argued here, support the necessity of semiotic realism as an irreducible organizing principle in the living world.

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