Publication 8046

Uexküll T. (1984) Semiotics and the problem of the observer. Semiotica 48(3–4): 187–195.
Excerpt: All living creatures receive and emit signs. It is even legitimate to call them ‘subjects’ on account of this capacity. But subjects are, as Sebeok (1976, 1979) keeps pointing out, not only human. He distinguishes betweenanthroposemiotics and zoosemiotics, and one is even entitled to talkabout phytosemiotics (Krampen 1981). Thus we are confronted with thefollowing problem: As human observers we can grasp the signs of otherliving beings, i.e., zoo- and phytosemiotic signs, only with anthropo-semiotic concepts. How can we avoid the danger of denaturing them bydoing so? This problem is of concern to medicine, as well as to zoology and tobotany; for within the body we deal with phytosemiotic sign-processesthat occur within cells and between cells, and that are regulated by theautonomic nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. On the other hand,sensomotor processes are regulated by the voluntary nervous system,which communicates zoosemiotic signs. Thus medicine constantly dealswith the problem of how phyto-, zoo-, and anthroposemiotic signprocesses are interrelated in sickness and in health and how the physicianas a human observer can grasp their relationships. To approach this complex problem I shall examine what is common toanthropo-, zoo-, and phytosemiotic sign processes and in what mannersthey differ. Such an analysis could be a first step in helping us avoid theanthropomorphic fallacy.
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