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Enchantment of the past and semiocide. Remembering Ivar Puura

146 Timo Maran
Enchantment of the past and semiocide.
Remembering Ivar Puura
Timo Maran1
When someone close to you passes away, a world ceases to exist. A semiotician
would say it is an umwelt, a subjective world with all the richness of sign pa erns,
personal memories and stories, nuances of expressions and habits that disappears.
A countless number of semiotic connections are severed.
Ivar Puura (b. 1961) died unexpectedly on July 20, 2012. Ivar Puura was a sup-
porter and a good dialogue partner of the Tartu semiotic community for more
than twenty years (for a more detailed biographical overview, see Kull 2012).
A geologist by training and an active proponent of environmental education and
protection, Ivar Puura o en brought fresh perspectives into semiotic debates.
He also acted as a long-time chair of the  eoretical Biology Division of the
Estonian Naturalists’ Society, was the main organizer of the annual Spring Schools
in  eoretical Biology, and an editor of many thematic volumes of the Society.
Especially remarkable were his views on temporal processes, development, and
evolution, as well as his interest in semiotics of time (including the new  eld of
paleo semiotics envisioned by him). Although Ivar Puura published li le in the  eld
of semiotics, he gave a number of presentations on various topics related to semiot-
ics, among others “Memory and subjective time: how the story of time is created”,
“Domesticating the unknown, “Time, chronesthesia and memory”, “From mirror-
ing nature to distorting nature: models, myths and manipulations”.2
Author’s address: Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu; Jakobi 2, Tartu 51014;
Estonia; e-mail:
e original titles and occasions of Ivar Puura’s semiotics-related presentations are the
following: “Mälu ja subjektiivne aeg: kuidas luuakse aja lugu?” [Memory and subjective time:
how the story of time is created] presented at the seminar “Isiklikud loodused” [Personal
Natures], November 25, 2002; “Tundmatu kodustamine” [Domesticating the unknown] at the
conference “Semiootika piirid” [Boundaries of Semiotics], November 24–25, 2006, see also
Puura 2006; “Aeg, kronesteesia ja mälu” [Time, chronesthesia and memory] at “VIII semiootika
sügiskool: Semiootika metodoloogia” [VIII Autumn School of Semiotics: Methodology of
Semiotics], November 3–5, 2006; “Looduse peegeldusest looduse väänamiseni: mudelid,
müüdid ja manipulatsioon” [From mirroring nature to distorting nature: models, myths and
Sign Systems Studies 41(1), 2013, 146–149
Enchantment of the past and semiocide. Remembering Ivar Puura 147
In this volume of Sign Systems Studies we publish a translation of Ivar Puura’s es-
say “Nature in our memory, which originally appeared in Estonian in Eesti Loodus
[Estonian nature], a popular journal of biological sciences (Puura 2002).  e es-
say revolves around two intrinsically semiotic principles:  rst, every living being is
connected to its environment by semiotic relations that accumulate in time; and
second, to be human is to be aware of our continuity in time which in turn entails
a capacity to predict future, to manipulate temporal phenomena and to provide
narratives about time.  e  rst principle unites us with other animals since all bi-
ological organisms rely on natural sign relations and semiotic a ordances3 of the
environment.  e second property is rather a peculiarity of the human species that
opens up a rich world of imagination, but also places upon us an ethical responsi-
bility not to misuse our abilities. By introducing an important concept of semiocide,
Ivar Puura directs our a ention to the possibility of misusing our semiotic skills:
according to him, semiocide is “a situation in which signs and stories that are sig-
ni cant for someone are destroyed because of someone else’s malevolence or care-
lessness, thereby stealing a part of the former’s identity”.
Semiocide has the potential to become a useful theoretical concept for describ-
ing relationships between cultures as well as between culture and nature, and for
distinguishing speci c practices applied in these relationships. In its essence, we
can describe any such relationship as an encounter between ones own semiotic
sphere and another semiotic sphere (to follow the terminology of Juri Lotman
2005), and we can categorize these relationships on the basis of a itude (wheth-
er one’s own semiotic sphere is aggressive or neutral towards or supportive of the
other), level of activity (whether it is passive or active towards the other), and
intentionality (whether the relationship is cognized and intentional or not).
Semiocide can take place in a situation in which one’s own semiotic sphere is ac-
tively aggressive towards the other semiotic sphere and brings along the destruc-
tion of the la er’s “signs and stories”.  e question of intentionality is more ambiva-
lent and by focusing predominantly on the victims of semiocide, Puura’s de nition
is broad enough to include both destruction because of someone’s “malevolence”
that is intentional and directed, and destruction because of someones “negligence
that is unintentional, undirected and o en accidental. I believe, however, that the
manipulations] at the seminar “Ökosemiootika suveseminar” [Summer Seminar in Eco-
semiotics], July 31 – August 2, 2009.
 Semiotic a ordances could be understood as “those environmental elements that have a
tendency to act as objects of signs. Such elements could be physical areas, for instance, hybrid
zones between biological communities, animal trails in the landscape, water currents, but also
temporal events, such as seasonal rains, forest res, and the melting of the snow” (Maran,
forthcoming). See also Gibson 1986: 127.
148 Timo Maran
distinction between intentional and unintentional semiocide may be relevant for
the future discussion of the concept:  rst, because intentional semiocide requires
planning and awareness of the other’s semioticity, being thus foremost a capacity
of the human species4; and second, because it is in regard to intentional semiocide
that we can speak of speci c practices used in semiocide. Unintentional semiocide
is o en part of our relations with other species: for instance, semiocide can appear
as the damaging e ects of human tra c noise on the vocal communication of wild
birds (Forman, Alexander 1998). Unintentional semiocide can be avoided by in-
creasing our knowledge.
In analysing actual occurrences of semiocide, we can distinguish between cases
in which the destruction of semiotic processes is a by-product of the destruction of
the material environment and objects, and cases in which the semiotic and com-
municative processes themselves are the primary target. Material destruction can
be part of semiocide against biological species and indigenous cultures, in which
case the other semiotic sphere relies mostly on natural (i.e. iconic, indexical) sign
relations that use semiotic a ordances of landscapes and material objects. Also
symbolic manifestations of culture such as statues, religious buildings, heraldic
symbols, natural monuments etc. are vulnerable to material destruction. In cases
when semiocide is targeted directly at semiotic or communicative processes, it can
be more speci cally aimed at any one component of the process. Here we can fol-
low classic descriptions of communication, such as Roman Jakobson’s or  omas
A. Sebeok’s communication models, and ask what components of communication
semiocide can a ect: thus, senders and receivers can be persecuted or executed,
the channel of communication can be prohibited, and the communication code
damaged. Ivar Puura’s essay provides examples of all of these cases. We can further
describe speci c strategies of semiocide, for instance masking (replacing informa-
tion and messages with those of dominant culture) and ideological overcoding
(Eco 1984: 22–23).
Puura most correctly stresses that nowadays the phenomenon of semiocide is
very widespread both in human culture and society as well as in relations between
culture and nature. Unfortunately, semiotics appears to have overlooked this dark
side of semiotic relations, as is evident from the lack of a conceptual framework
and studies dedicated to this topic. As we now have a word to denote this phenom-
enon, there is hope that Ivar Puura’s legacy in semiotics will be be er perceived
and also elaborated.  is is a question of the ethical responsibility of semiotics.
While chronesthesia and other unique semiotic capabilities have enabled humans
to reach the position from which we are able to intentionally carry out semiocide,
Apparently there are destructive strategies that target the means of communications also in
other species, for instance in parasites of ants and slave-making ants (Lenoir et al. 2001).
Enchantment of the past and semiocide. Remembering Ivar Puura 149
the same capabilities also make us aware that every human being as well as every
animal gravitates towards the “reliable world of dearly loved landscapes and smells,
familiar signs and relationships”. Since the ability to remember our past and to proj-
ect our being into the future makes us so eager to preserve our existence over time,
semiotics can teach us that we can thrive only in our relations with what is other
and di erent. It is indeed a profound semiotic insight that to have a future, any se-
miotic sphere needs a realm (objects, partners of dialogue, context) that remains
(partially) outside it and that it does not fully perceive, understand or control. We
are our memories, but what we predominantly remember, are others – other hu-
man beings, animals, places, books. One of these others is you, Ivar. Fostering the
richness of the world appears to be an essential principle of semiotic ethics.
Eco, Umberto 1984. e Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press.
Forman, Richard T. T.; Alexander, Laurene E. 1998. Roads and their major ecological e ects.
Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29: 207–231.
Gibson, James J. 1986. e Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale: Lawrence
Kull, Kalevi 2012. Ivar Puura jäljed semiootikas [Traces of Ivar Puura in semiotics]. Acta
Semiotica Estica 9: 258–259.
Lenoir, Alain; D’E orre, P.; Errard, Christine; Hefetz, Abraham 2001. Chemical ecology and
social parasitism in ants. Annual Review of Entomology 46: 573–599.
Lotman, Juri 2005. On the semiosphere. Sign Systems Studies 33(1): 205–229.
Maran, Timo forthcoming. Semiotization of ma er. A hybrid zone between biosemiotics and
material ecocriticism. In: Iovino, Serenella; Oppermann, Serpil (eds.). Material Ecocriticism.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Puura, Ivar 2002. Loodus meie mälus. Eesti Loodus 11: 24–25.
Puura, Ivar 2006. Domesticating the unknown. In: Maran, Timo; Salupere, Silvi; Väli, Katre
(eds.) Conference Abstracts. Boundaries of Semiotics. Tartu, Estonia, 24–25.11. 2006. Tartu:
Eesti Semiootika Selts, 39.
150 Ivar Puura
Nature in our memory1
Ivar Puura
Humans seem to have been set apart from other animals by their ability for mental
time travel, into the past as well as into the future. In case this is so – have we tried
to appreciate the true wealth that this ability gives us? Are we able to perceive these
opportunities and the full responsibility that it brings along?
“If we kept all our wonderful abilities except for the sense of time, we would
still remain uniquely di erent from all other animals, but we would hardly be hu-
mans in the sense we understand it now,2 believes Endel Tulving (2002). Tulving
writes that the unique human sense of time – chronesthesia – is related to the
development of speci c brain regions (prefrontal cortex and frontal lobes). By
chronesthesia Tulving understands “a form of cognition that allows human be-
ings to think about subjective time and enables travel through subjective time.
Furthermore, he concludes that “for the development and continuance of civilisa-
tion and culture it is indispensable for a human being to be aware of her own and
her o spring’s continued existence in time that includes not only the past and the
present but also future” (Tulving 2002).
Each moment of communication with our surroundings involves recognition
of signs, establishment of their interrelations, a ribution of meaning – in other
words, there occurs semiosis. Chronesthesia can be seen as a type of semiosis in
which personal memories are arranged on a subjective timeline. It is only on the
basis of remembering the personal that trust can appear or disappear. Wisdom as
well as stupidity, sincerity as well as deceit are all recorded in the mind. On the ba-
sis of experience all of us shape our own landscape of memory, space of values, at-
titudes and (pre)conceptions.
Personal time travels intertwine memories and acquired knowledge. Among
these there are general signs of culture that “[...] actualize behavioural, ideological,
temporal and spatial codes in the mind of the receiver” (Torop 1999). Kalevi Kull
and Mihhail Lotman (1995) have suggested: “A sign requires to be recognized.
What an interpreter does not recognize is not a sign for her.  is, seemingly a rath-
er self-evident and primitive statement brings along rather important implications,
such as semiosis being inseparably connected to memory.
Originally published as “Puura, Ivar 2002. Loodus meie mälus. Eesti Loodus 11: 24–25”
All quotations from Estonian are translated by Elin Sütiste and Timo Maran.
Sign Systems Studies 41(1), 2013, 150–153
Nature in our memory 151
Jaan Kaplinski (1996) has wri en: “In a simple case, the free part of mind is
lled with a simple re ection of the surroundings. But our mind is hardly ever a
mere mirror:  laments of memory connect each of our perceptions to something
past.  ere is no such thing as a pure present. Memories bring into it the past,
wishes and expectations the future; imagination and thinking combine all this into
new pictures and thoughts.
A notion of temporal relations accompanies us everywhere.  e pillars of our
world picture – ideas about the emergence and development of phenomena,
about causality and repeatability of experiments – all entail temporal relation-
ships. Wri en and unwri en rules of communal life, morality, ethics, (behavioural)
norms, laws and responsibility for our past – all these are based on our own and
others’ personal (life)stories unfolding in time.
Claude Lévi-Strauss (2001), who studied the “savage mind” of indigenous peo-
ple, described tribes who responded to the researchers’ wish to learn their language
with spreading out a pile of plants.  e names of the hundreds of plants make up
a considerable part of a tribe’s common vocabulary and signscape. Some under-
standing of the depth of such “savage thinking” can develop in a person whose
knowledge of nature approaches that of indigenous peoples.
homas A. Sebeok (from le ), Kalevi Kull and Ivar Puura at the seminar “Uexküll and the Liv-
ing Environment” at the Estonian Naturalists' Society, Tartu, June 8, 1999 (Photo: T. Maran
152 Ivar Puura
As a contrast to the world in which there still exist shreds of the “savage mind”,
Jean Baudrillard describes a world of simulacra, in which groves and meadows are
replaced by arti cial environments, such as Disneyland or McDonald’s. While in
earlier times natural landscapes were transferred onto maps, at the present time
programmes to change nature are devised in the paper reality of landscape plan-
ning. A modelled arti cial environment as a simulacrum starts to prevail over the
primeval and the natural, both in the physical world as well as in the human mind.
e diversity of nature is overwhelming. Every living creature, being part of a
greater whole, carries in itself memories of billions of years of evolution and em-
bodies its own long and largely still unknown story of origin. By wholesale replace-
ment of primeval nature with arti cial environments, it is not only nature in the
biological sense that is lost. At the hands of humans, millions of stories with bil-
lions of relations and variations perish.  e rich signscape of nature is replaced by
something much poorer. It is not an exaggeration to call this process semiocide.
I understand semiocide to be a situation in which signs and stories that are signif-
icant for someone are destroyed because of someone elses malevolence or careless-
ness, thereby stealing a part of the former’s identity. In everyday life this o en takes
place in the form of material or mental violence among children as well as grownups:
things that are signi cant and have become dear to somebody are threatened to be
or are actually destroyed. In the cultural sphere, semiocide can be looting of tombs
or destruction of heritage objects. Classic nature protection looks out for individual
natural objects also in the sense of their physical as well as semiotic existence.
When semiocide is targeted at some nation or group of people, it can manifest
itself as ideological pressure or as sacrilege that o en goes together with physical
violence or occupation. A form of semiocide – linguacide, i.e. suppression of na-
tional languages – is something we remember from our own recent past and can
see everywhere in the world today. Semiocide has also been the destruction of
totems of indigenous people and the banishing of people from their home sign-
scape– from the native land of their forefathers, taking away from them everything
which all together means home.
What is homesickness if not a wish to return to our reliable world of dearly
loved landscapes and smells, familiar signs and relationships? What keeps families
in their homes until the last moment when burning lava or rising water is already
threateningly near? Why do families refuse to accept  nancially tempting o ers to
move away when their homes get in the way of new mines or roads?
If we took time to get to know ourselves be er, we would discover nature
in ourselves. Deep in our memory our sensations are related to the signs of na-
ture that we see, smell and hear even when we have not yet become aware of
this. Nature that is intimately familiar to us embodies the signscape that carries
Nature in our memory 153
traditions going back through centuries, helps culture to persist and helps human
beings to stay human.
How can we  nd this nature in ourselves? We can always listen to nature’s music
that lightens our mind. Some people experience an elevated mood, others perceive
the nuances of the melody, yet others are able to write the music down as a score,
and  nally there are some who are able to create music.  e richness of melodies
and signs hidden in nature is not elitist, it cannot be fenced in or marketed. Nature
just is. When need be, it comforts the traveller of the (memory) landscape. And
sometimes nature gives us a jolly wink and is willing to tell its stories, unfolding
multilayered meanings and o ering joy of discovery to last one’s entire lifetime.
Baudrillard, Jean 1999. Simulaakrumid ja simulatsioon [Simulacra and simulation]. Tallinn:
Kaplinski, Jaan 1996. See ja teine [ is and that]. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.
Kull, Kalevi; Lotman, Mihhail 1995. Semiotica Tartuensis: Jakob von Uexküll ja Juri Lotman
[Semiotica Tartuensis: Jakob von Uexküll and Juri Lotman]. Akadeemia 7(12): 2467–2483.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude 2001. Metsik mõtlemine [ e savage mind]. Tallinn: Vagabund.
Torop, Peeter 1999. Kultuurimärgid [Signs of culture]. Tartu: Ilmamaa.
Tulving, Endel 2002. Mälu [Memory]. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.
Translated by Elin Sütiste and Timo Maran
... Following this distinction, which is based on (un) intentionality, semiocide refers either to a fully conscious, perhaps even hostile, attempt to destroy a semiotic configuration, or to a completely nonconscious, unaware process in which the unawareness itself is the source of the destruction. Although a more cultural approach dominates in Puura's assertion of the concept, the concept is applicable to human classification, interpretation and transformation of nature (Maran, 2013;Tønnessen et al., 2015). Focusing on the case of Adana as a recent example of a global waste crisis, our aim is to provide a (bio)semiotic framework for assessing how and under what conditions plastic materials become arbiters of environmental and political crises. ...
... According to this distinction, based on (un)intentionality, semiocide is either a fully conscious, perhaps even hostile, attempt to destroy a semiotic configuration or a completely nonconscious, unawares process in which unawareness is itself the cause of destruction. Although a more cultural approach is dominant in Puura's assertion of the concept, it can be applied to human classification, interpretation, and transformation of nature (Maran, 2013;Tønnessen et al., 2015). ...
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In this article, in an attempt to analyze the crisis caused by the images of imported plastic waste, we consider the relationship between waste and its meaning in the case of geographical dislocation and de- and re-contextualization processes. Our analysis is guided by two recent concepts: The Wasteocene and semiocide. While the Wasteocene clarifies the signifying mechanisms of this period, semiocide allows us to understand which signs, under what conditions, are rendered invisible or disregardable. In coining the concept of semiocide, Ivar Puura emphasized two key features of the phenomenon. Following this distinction, which is based on (un)intentionality, semiocide refers either to a fully conscious, perhaps even hostile, attempt to destroy a semiotic configuration, or to a completely nonconscious, unaware process in which the unawareness itself is the source of the destruction. Although a more cultural approach dominates in Puura’s assertion of the concept, the concept is applicable to human classification, interpretation and transformation of nature (Maran, 2013; Tønnessen et al., 2015). Focusing on the case of Adana as a recent example of a global waste crisis, our aim is to provide a (bio)semiotic framework for assessing how and under what conditions plastic materials become arbiters of environmental and political crises. With heaps of plastic garbage with foreign names on them, the discourse of recycling, restricted media coverage, public indignation, the struggles of environmentalist organizations, and the encounter of different spatio-temporalities, our study aims to convey an impoverished narrative of a city in the south of Türkiye.
... In contrast to current top-down industry capture through marketing (Hendlin 2019) and polarized politics in the aftermath of the postmodern century, a lens that combines biosemiotics and Teilhard's work may offer avenues to supersede this attenuation of semiotic sensitivity. Ivar Puura's notion of semiocide as impairing the other from realizing their semiotic identity (Maran 2013) can be interpreted as the end result of semiotic instrumentalizationwhich occurs when we do not realize our co-emergence out of a more replete universal biosemiotic pattern. Keeping in mind the greater unifying framework which underpins our existence may allow individuals to disagree on aspects of their perceived realities without undermining their collective goal of cooperation for preserving the semiotic specificity that has emerged through particular traditions of habit and habitat. ...
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... In an article about the work of Estonian geologist Ivar Puura (1961Puura ( -2012, Maran (2013) mentions the field of paleosemiotics which Puura envi-sioned (2013, 146). This would include, as a central notion, "semiocide", understood as 'a situation in which signs and stories that are significant for someone are destroyed because of someone else's malevolence or carelessness, thereby stealing a part of the former's identity' (Puura 2013, 152). ...
In this article I detail how past Umwelten can be studied by applying Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory and informed by contemporary science. I argue that the methodological challenges raised by the lack of present organisms available for realtime observations and whole-body physiological studies can be partly overcome by making qualified assumptions drawn from relevant knowledge and reconstructing likely Umwelt relations. As groundwork for such studies, I outline some basic assumptions in studies of past, current and future Umwelten, consider methodological issues related to the study of past Umwelten in particular, and present a few empirical assumptions that are informative with regard to the study of past Umwelten in different historical periods. I also discuss the relevance of such studies for current conservation work, specifically contemporary discussions about de-extinction, and for economics conceived of as a branch of ecology in the fashion of ecological economics.
... Human health harms also involve what Ivar Puura calls "semiocide" (Maran, 2013)-the degradation of semiotic habits. Attending to the way in which environmental health harms impact both conscious and unconscious semiosis is important in making sense of the question of what are health harms? ...
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The field of public health focuses on how health is not merely an internal affair, from the skin-in, but is a socially and environmentally determined phenomenon. Biosemiotic analysis of the organism-Umwelt relationship, and interactions between exosemiotics and endosemiotics, affords a unique perspective on how given chemicals and other toxins affect humans and other organisms. Biosemiotics also provides insights regarding how meaning-making at all levels emerges through the content, arrangement, and quality of habitat. Attending to organism health according to the biopsychosocial medical model provides an opportunity for biosemiotics to supplement current public health methods by attending to how environmental factors and their co-creation by inhabitants organize meaning, and to examine how different environmental states potentiate or depress health. A biosemiotic approach to public health has the potential to expand public health to be not just an anthropocentric field of inquiry, but an interspecies and elemental question of planetary health, where the health of a given species or organism is contingent upon the condition of that organism’s network of relations.
... Human health harms also involve what Ivar Puura calls "semiocide" (Maran, 2013)-the degradation of semiotic habits. Attending to the way in which environmental health harms impact both conscious and unconscious semiosis is important in making sense of the question of what are health harms? ...
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Approaches to Biosemiotics is the first issue in the Biosocial World collection, and contains a series of articles on what biosemiotics does, how it does it and what its long-term objectives may be. As a more specialized discipline in the boundaries of linguistics, the biosociology, the philosophy of biology and the sciences, we hope to offer a point of entry into the world of biosemiotics through articles that deal with general topics from within the field. Our aim is, thus, to contribute to the biosemiotic landscape by opening a door to its recurring themes, problems and descriptions.
... Ivar Puura (1961Puura ( -2012, a geologist by training, was mostly appreciated for his contributions the field of paleontology. His sudden passing in 2012 was a heartbreaking incident, especially for the semiotics community in Tartu because of him being an active participant in semiotic circles for around two decades (see Maran 2013). His insightful presentations such as "Time, Chronesthesia and Memory" in Tartu Autumn School of Semiotics in 2006 and "Unknown Domestication" in a 2006 conference in Tartu named "Boundaries of Semiotics" are not the only semiotic contributions he is remembered by; in fact, his name, more often than not, occurs with two semiotic coinages of his, i.e. semiocide and paleosemiotics. ...
Having been intimately aligned with the research agenda of biosemiotics since his colleague Thomas Sebeok first started using the term in 1992, Paul Cobley has consistently argued against the idea that the primary aim of biosemiotics is to make an intervention in the discourse and epistemology of the life sciences. Instead, he argues for the potential of a biosemiotically informed humanities for refashioning the ways in which we humans come to understand our situation within a world of signs and other organisms – as well as our existential duty of care for preserving the diversity and flourishing of both through the development of an anti-volunteerist ethics. Paul Cobley’s 2016 Cultural implications of biosemiotics fills a much-needed lacuna in the literature of biosemiotics in focusing with laser-like precision on those aspects of our human being – politics and aesthetics, education and ideology – that, Cobley rightly claims, have gone disproportionately under-analyzed and even under-appreciated in biosemiotics, due to its competing emphasis on reformulating biology. As one of the justly accused, I would like to take the occasion of this Festschrift to show the extent to which I now believe that Paul’s more expansive understanding of the purview of biosemiotics is, indeed, the proper one.
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This edited volume is the first specialized book in English about the Swiss zoologist and anthropologist Adolf Portmann (1897-1982). It provides a clarification and update of Portmann’s theoretical approach to the phenomenon of life, characterized by terms such as “inwardness” and “self-presentation.” Portmann’s concepts of secondary altriciality and the social uterus have become foundational in philosophical anthropology, providing a benchmark of the difference between humans and animals. In its content, this book brings together two approaches: historical and philosophical analysis of Portmann’s studies in the life sciences and application of Portmann’s thought in the fields of biology, anthropology, and biosemiotics. Significant attention is also paid to the methodological implications of his intended reform of biology. Besides contributions from contemporary biologists, philosophers, and historians of science, this volume also includes a translation of an original essay by Portmann and a previously unpublished manuscript from his most remarkable English-speaking interpreter, philosopher Marjorie Grene. Portmann’s conception of life is unique in its focus on the phenomenal appearance of organisms. Confronted with the enormous amount of scientific knowledge being produced today, it is even clearer than it was during Portmann’s lifetime that although biologists employ physical and chemical methods, biology itself is not (only) physics and chemistry. These exact methods must be applied according to what has meaning for living beings. If biology seeks to understand organisms as autonomous agents, it needs to take display and the interpretation of appearances as basic characteristics of life. The topic of this book is significantly relevant to the disciplines of theoretical biology, philosophy, philosophical anthropology, and biosemiotics. The recent epigenetic turn in biology, acknowledging the interconnections between organismal development, morphology and communication, presents an opportunity to revisit Portmann’s work and to reconsider and update his primary ideas in the contemporary context.
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The essay provides a brief analysis of correspondence between two scholars whose heritage forms the basis of contemporary Tartu semiotics-Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) and Juri Lotman (1922-1993). A comparison between Uexküll's and Lotman's work demonstrates a series of features in which their approaches are in concord. We find some aspects of local culture as supportive of their way of thinking. We also claim that the theoretical integration of Jakob Uexküll's and Juri Lotman's approaches is at the heart of the contemporary semiotics, which has a task to develop a theoretical and methodological apparatus that would delimit and specify the scope of general semiotics and that could be used as a basis for all branches of semiotics.
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The chemical strategies by which parasites manage to break into the social fortresses of ants offer a fascinating theme in chemical ecology. Semiochemicals used for interindividual nestmate recognition are also involved in the mechanisms of tolerance and association between the species, and social parasites exploit these mechanisms. The obligate parasites are odorless ("chemical insignificance") at the time of usurpation, like all other callow ants, and this "invisibility" enables their entry into the host colony. By chemical mimicry (sensu lato), they later integrate the gestalt odor of this colony ("chemical integration"). We hypothesize that host and parasite are likely to be related chemically, thereby facilitating the necessary mimicry to permit bypassing the colony odor barrier. We also review the plethora of chemical weapons used by social parasites (propaganda, appeasement, and/or repellent substances), particularly during the usurpation period, when the young mated parasite queen synthesizes these chemicals before usurpation and ceases such biosynthesis afterwards. We discuss evolutionary trends that may have led to social parasitism, focusing on the question of whether slave-making ants and their host species are expected to engage in a coevolutionary arms race.
Abstract A huge road network with vehicles ramifies across the land, representing a surprising frontier of ecology. Species-rich roadsides are conduits for few species. Roadkills are a premier mortality source, yet except for local spots, rates rarely limit population size. Road avoidance, especially due to traffic noise, has a greater ecological impact. The still-more-important barrier effect subdivides populations, with demographic and probably genetic consequences. Road networks crossing landscapes cause local hydrologic and erosion effects, whereas stream networks and distant valleys receive major peak-flow and sediment impacts. Chemical effects mainly occur near roads. Road networks interrupt horizontal ecological flows, alter landscape spatial pattern, and therefore inhibit important interior species. Thus, road density and network structure are informative landscape ecology assays. Australia has huge road-reserve networks of native vegetation, whereas the Dutch have tunnels and overpasses perforating road barriers to enhance ecological flows. Based on road-effect zones, an estimated 15–20% of the United States is ecologically impacted by roads.
The problem of dialogue has quite understandably been the focus of investigations in recent decades. Since publication of the study by L. P. Yakubinskii entitled On dialogic speech, interest in this question has risen steadily, and in 1929 reached a level that was in many respects far ahead of that of general scientific thought at the time. The problem of dialogue is more and more moving into the center of attention of linguistic interest. This is quite understandable: indeed, the real unit of speech (Sprache als Rede), as we know, is not an isolated monologue statement, but the interaction of at least two statements, i.e., dialogue. The entire range of questions from the mechanism of consciousness and the construction of models of languages to communication with computers leads us, in one way or another, to the problem of dialogue. Moreover, recognition that a dialogue situation is a prerequisite of the communicative process and, in this respect, precedes not only the monologue form of a statement but also the phenomenon of language as such, and the discovery that there is a latent dialogue in monologue texts of various forms increases still further the scope of the problem.