A Sign Is Just a Sign (Advances in Semiotics) by Thomas A. Sebeok

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By Thomas A. Sebeok

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The study of the twin processes of communication and signification can be regarded as ultimately a branch of the life science, or as belonging in large part to nature, in some part to culture, which is, of course, also a part of nature. When dissolved into their elementary constituents, messages are found to perfuse the entire biosphere, the system of directed and responsive matter and energy flow which is the entirety of life on Earth. < previous page page_22 If you like this book, buy it! next page > < previous page page_23 next page > Page 23 An implication of this way of looking at communication is that the capacity for message generation and message consumption, which are commonly attributed only to humans, is here assumed to be present in the humblest forms of existence, whether bacteria, plants, animals, or fungi, and, moreover, in their component parts, such as subcellular units (for example, mitochondria), cells, organelles, organs, and so forth.

Recognition is required for all positive responses and (very likely) for various refractory states, which is to say that tolerance is not simply tantamount to lack of recognition. The molecular basis of recognition is, of course, a set of immunoglobulins, or proteins in the blood that have antibody activity. The immune system responds in two ways: there is a proliferation of recognition units; and there is a stimulation of reactions which can be broadly characterized as directed to antigen elimination.

The point to remember is that the message-as-formulated must next undergo successive transformations while progressing on its journey toward the destination. The transmissions are, as it were, handed on from one relay station to the next, and, before reaching the primary projection area, they need to be rearrangedfiltered and variously adjustedto suit the requirements of the chosen channel. It is not known how, specifically, the messages are constructed and stacked in a hierarchy, or how their meanings are "agreed to" (that is, coded).

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