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Entropy, function and evolution: naturalizing Peircian semiosis

  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten

Cybersemiotics claims that the standard uses of the Shannon information concept as applied on systems with cognition and communication fail to account for the semantic dimension of semiosis. This argument does not properly recognize the role of entropy in semiosis. Entropy comes into full play if semiosis is seen as a purely physical process involving causal interactions between physical systems with functions. Functions emerge from evolutionary processes, as conceived in recent philosophical contributions to teleosemantics. In this context, causal interactions can be interpreted in a dual mode, namely as standard causation and as an observation. Thus, a function appears to be the interpretand in the Peircian triadic notion of the sign. Recognizing this duality, the Gibbs/Jaynes notion of entropy can be added to the picture, which shares an essential conceptual feature with the notion of function: Both concepts are a part of a physicalist ontology, but are observer relative at the same time. Thus, it is possible to give an account of semiosis within the entropy framework without limiting the notion of entropy to the Shannon measure, but taking full account of the thermodynamic definition. A central feature of this approach is the conceptual linkage between the evolution of functions and maximum entropy production.

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Paper provided by Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in its series Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series with number 134.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fsfmwp:134
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