Affiliation: Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Title: The meaning of the body: semiotic body and phenomenal body
Abstract: This paper deals with the materiality, corporality, or bodily nature and the embodiment of signs, a topic that has become a center of interest, manly after the cognitive turn in semiotics. The bodily nature of signs is not only apparent in nonverbal and paralinguistic communication, where the human body is the sign vehicle, and hence the embodiment of signs, but also in the process of cognitive, neuronal and cerebral processing of visual, acoustic, and other types of signs, where the human body reveals itself as an interpreter of signs. In short, this paper investigates the semiotic and cognitive aspects of bodily semiosis. My assumption is that we can talk about: (1) a concept of the body, which, in itself, makes evident the basic semiotic competences of an organism, i. e., a semiotic concept of embodiment, and (2) the phenomenal body, the bodily being in the world of human beings, which provides the condition of possibility for investigating and understanding the body as a source of symbolizing process and a product of cultural inscriptions. The conclusion is that we cannot conceive a semiotic body – a body which generates meaning or to which meaning can be attributed, without the phenomenal body, the latter being, in fact, the existential ground for the former.
Affiliation: Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
Title: The hybridization of concepts. Towards an integration of situated theories in biology and cognitive science
Abstract: How do concepts acquire their content? Classical cognitive science has been promoting theories of concept acquisition based on internal-external dichotomy. External input provides information that is organized, interconnected and manipulated by internal cognitive activity. Concepts are internal entities building from environmental data. Even more, mainstream cognitive science usually tend to postulate naked concepts: they have abstract properties of environmental things without representing particular sensorimotor properties. They are part of the sandwich theory: concepts are the mental representations between perception and action. When perceptual representations knock the doors of higher cognitive levels, they strip their modal properties, creating, thus, a concept. However, post-cognitivist theories have been rejecting the cognitivist kingdom. They base on body-mind-world relations and pursue a cognitive theory that does not ignore the whole body (not just brains) and its dynamics with the environment. Then, the sandwich is eaten. None amodal and abstract mental representation should exist. The content of all mental representations is rotted on action and perception. As a consequence, the body and environment play a constituent role in furnishing our minds with semantics. There is an analogous picture in biology. How do organisms develop? Neo-Darwinism (also named Modern Synthesis) promotes a gene-centered account of biological processes. Evolution is the change in gene pools of a population, inheritance is only trough germ-line, and development is the execution of a genetic program. Under this picture, and internal-external dichotomy is set up. Internal blueprint determines innate traits. External constraints promote acquired traits. Internal genetic mutations promote variation. External pressure guide natural selection processes. Internal –germ-line- inheritance explains the maintenance of form and function within the same species. External (extra-organismal) cross-generational interaction promote cultural-specific traits in a sub-group of the species. However, The Extended Synthesis had been attacking neo-Darwinian tenets. The external-internal picture is blurred by a dynamic and more complex stance of organic processes. Dichotomies are substituted by global and multilevel processes. Development is the individual time-scale processes where different levels of the organism interact bidirectionally stage by stage in the ontogenesis. Evolution is an ecological phenomenon where duplets organism-environment co-evolve. Inheritance is a multi-channel process hosted in many dimensions of the organism. As a consequence, the body as a whole and environmental-ecological dynamics play a central role in biology. Our main thesis is simple: current biological theories should frame the post-cognitivist shift. Both scientific journeys point out in the same direction. Specifically, we would like to approach concepts with the theoretical and experimental weapons of those theories. That is, once that the biological and the cognitive historical routes are traced and interconnected, we want to pursue a theory of concept development rooted in the concept of hybrid ontogenetic processes, as it is used by Eco-devoists and Niche Construction theorists. Hybrid processes point out that all phenotypic traits are building form environmental-organismal dynamics. Ontogeny is an ecological phenomenon, so concept development too. Concept ontogeny has a hybrid developmental trajectory. Therefore, the amodal and sensorimotor properties of perceptual representations are the proper building blocks of our semantic endowment.