Synopses & Reviews
For three and a half billion years the living creatures of the natural world have been engaged in an increasingly complex and extensive conversation. Cells, tissue, organs, plants, animals, entire populations and ecosystems buzz with communication, incessantly emitting and receiving signals. These signs have been there as long as life itself. They make up the semiosphere, a sphere like the biosphere, but one constituted of messages - sounds, odors, movements, colors, electrical fields, chemical signals - the signs of life. This book examines the radical premise that the sign, not the molecule, is the crucial, underlying factor in the study of life. On this tour of the universe of signs, Jesper Hoffmeyer travels back to the Big Bang, visits the tiniest places deep within cells, and ends his journey with us - complex organisms capable of speech and reason. He shows that life at its most basic depends on the survival of messages written in the code of DNA molecules, and on the tiny cell - the fertilized egg - that must interpret the message and from it construct an organism. What propels this journey is Hoffmeyer's attempt to discover how nature could come to mean something to someone; indeed, how "something" could become "someone". How could a biological self become a semiotic self? And how, finally, do we unite these two different selves, "nature" and "mind" which we all carry in us and which all too often are at war with each other?
From reviews for the bestselling Danish edition:
"... dashing and idiomatic language that is a pleasure to read." --Berlingske Tidende
"... an appetizer and eye opener... Hoffmeyer is a modernistic pioneer in the wide open spaces of the natural sciences... " --Politiken
"... extremely well written and interesting manifesto for a bioanthropology... " --Inf.
"It should be read by anyone who likes to be wiser and at the same time to be challenged in his habitual conception of the relations between culture and nature." --Weekend Avisen
On this tour of the universe of signs, Jesper Hoffmeyer travels back to the Big Bang, visits the tiniest places deep within cells, and ends his journey with us--complex organisms capable of speech and reason. What propels this journey is Hoffmeyer's attempt to discover how nature could come to mean something to someone--by telling the story of how cells, tissue, organs, plants, animals, even entire ecosystems communicate by signs and signals.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -161) and index.
About the Author
JESPER HOFFMEYER is Professor in the Biosemiotics Group at the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Copenhagen. He has published six books in Danish on social and philosophical aspects of biology and is a regular contributor to leading Danish newspapers. He has been the editor of two major Danish magazines on science, technxnd society, and is presently a member of the board for The Centre for Ethics and Law, University of Copenhagen.
Table of Contents
On lumps in nothingness, on "not"
On history and codes: the dialectic of oblivion
On Nature's tendency to acquire habits
On life and self-reference, on subjectivity
5. Opening Up
On the sensory universe of creatures: the liberation of the semiosphere
The mobile brain: the language of cells
On the triadic ascendance of dualism
On language: existential bioanthropology
Consciousness: the bodily governor within the brain
On ethics: reuniting two stories in one body-mind