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Kauffman, S.A. (2000) "Investigations", Oxford University Press, New York
A definition of life:
Properties of "autonomous agents" (p. 8) Other definitions of life
Wittgenstein and 'language games'
Called 'Investigations' after Wittgenstein's book 'Philosophical Investigations'. Kauffman makes use of Wittgenstein's idea of 'language games'.

Wittgenstein says that truth in a legal context (court of law) can not be reduced to a "finitely prespecifiable list of statements about ordinary human actions whose truth would be neccesary and sufficent for the truth of the statement that the jury found Henderson guilty of murder." (p.52) The language, statements and actions of law define each other, they are 'co-defined'.

Kauffman suggests that life co-defines or 'co-constructs' itself. The properties of biological systems cannot be predicted from the properties of the chemicals that make up those systems. The properties of chemical systems are expressed in the form of chemical reactions. However, the 'language game' of the biological system defines which reactions take place and the causal consequences of those reactions. Likewise, the behaviour of a court of law is expressed in the form of human actions. However, the 'language game' of the court of law defines what human actions take place and the legal consequences of those actions.


A physics of semantics?

"An incoming molecular species arriving in the interior of an autonomus agent really is:


"The incoming molecule is 'yuck' or 'yum'." (ibid.)

"Once yuck or yum, we are not far from C.S. Pierce's meaning-laden semiotic triad: sign, signified, significans. Like it or not, the glucose gradient is a sign, a predictor, of 'more glucose that way'. Granted, the glucose is not an arbitrary symbol, any more than a cloud is an arbitrary symbol of rain. In this restricted sense, signs are causally correlated with that which is signified. By contrast, the relation bewteen the word 'chair' and that which it signifies, and on which I am now sitting is arbitrary. But can chemical signals in bacterial and plant and human communicaties be arbitrary from a chemical causal point of view? If so, can 'mere chemicals' be signs in the full Piercean sense?" (pp.111-112)


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Created 9/5/01
Last modified 25/5/01