Biosemiotics 13 (2):155-177 (2020)

The article aims to provide a general framework for assessing and categorizing the cognitive systems of human and non-human animals. Our approach stems from biosemiotic, ethological, and phenomenological investigations into the relations of organisms to one another and to their environment. Building on the analyses of Merleau-Ponty and Portmann, organismal bodies and surfaces are distinguished as the base for sign production and interpretation. Following the concept of modelling systems by Sebeok, we develop a concentric model of human and non-human animal cognition that posits three intertwined spheres: corporeity, social communication, and culture. The model explicitly works with the pluralistic perspective that views the communication and cognition of humans as distinct, but not superior to those of non-human animals. Our position is substantiated by two case studies: the first one focuses on the acquisition and spread of nut-cracking technique among the chimpanzees in the Täi forest, the second one on the communication and cognition of deafblind persons. From an epistemological perspective, our paper is a contribution to contemporary attempts to link biosemiotics and ethology with phenomenological concepts of agency, living bodies, and lifeworld.
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DOI 10.1007/s12304-020-09387-8
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Language and Mind.Noam Chomsky - 1968 - Cambridge University Press.
Personal Knowledge.Michael Polanyi - 1958 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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