Publication 2381

Weber A. (2001) Cognition as expression: On the autopoietic foundations of an aesthetic theory of nature. Sign Systems Studies 29(1): 153–168. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2381
This paper attempts to put forward an aesthetic theory of nature based on a biosemiotic description of the living, which in turn is derived from an autopoietic theory of organism (F. Varela). An autopoietic system’s reaction to material constraints is the unfolding of a dimension of meaning. In the outward_ Gestalt_ of autopoietic systems, meaning appears as form, and as such it reveals itself in a sensually graspable manner. The mode of being of organisms has an irreducible aesthetic side in which this mode of being becomes visible. Nature thus displays a kind of transparency of its own functioning: in a nondiscursive way organisms show traces of their_ conditio vitae_ through their material self-presentation. Living beings hence always show a basic level of expressiveness as a necessary component of their organic mode of being. This is called the_ ecstatic_ dimension of nature (G. Böhme, R. Corrington). Autopoiesis in its full consequence then amounts to a view reminding of Paracelsus’ idea of the_ signatura rerum_ (C. Glacken, H. Böhme): nature is transparent, not because it is organized_ digitally_ as a linguistic text or code, but rather because it displays_ analogically_ the kind of intentionality engendered by autopoiesis. Nature as a whole, as “living form” (S. Langer), is a symbol for organic intentionality. The most fundamental meaning of nature protection thus is to guarantee the “real presence” of our soul.

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