The semiosphere is a sphere just like the athmosphere and the biosphere. It penetrates to every corner of these other spheres, incorporating all forms of communication: sounds, smells, movements, colors, shapes, electrical fields, thermal radiation, waves of all kinds, chemical signals, touching, and so on. In short, signs of life.
We tend to overlook the fact that all plants and animals - all organisms, come to that - live, first and foremost, in a world of signification.
....follow the semiosphere into the heart of organisms, to where cells swarm around amid a cacophony of messages. How was it possible for these swarming cells finally to turn into thought swarms within human beings? ...How could natural history become cultural history? ...How did nature come to mean something to someone? How did something become "someone?
How can signification arise out of something that signifies nothing?
...The thought of "nothingness is quite mind-boggling: an almost impossible concept...Envisaging absolute "nothingness is a logical maneuver that human beings are born to master. This maneuvre lies hidden within the tiny word "not. Logic demands that if we can picture something that exists, a snail on a path for example, then we must also be capable of imagining the possibility that there is not a snail on the path. Hence, if we can envisage the universe, we must be able to envisage the concept of nothingness.
(cf. Bateson Oekologie S.580) ...speech creates a distance which allows for an absence, a "not...the spoken word communicates something quite different from body language. Body language can refute, but it cannot deny.
This very facility to think of, or talk about, something that does not exist holds the key to all manners of inventions. It is precisely through this logical exercise, that imagination is given free rein. It becomes possible to conceive of an infinite wealth of possible worlds.
Imagination depends on an alienation, a denial - in the casting loose of humanitys indubitable moorings in the existing world.
...the price one pays for experiencing oneself as a complete entity , distinct from all others, is the split between the subject and the image of the subject. The idea that a fundamental existential split is inherent in human nature is a recurring theme in the work of those philosophers who have devoted themselves to the study of the "self. Thus the shaping of the subject in childhood seems to repeat the very process which holds the key to the evolution of the human race: an alienation process based on the creation of an imaginary reality, a reality which is not real.
This split also holds the key to human desire. The longing to be made whole again that is life itself: the endless investigation of all the manifold themes of existence. It is this split, this fundamental yearning, that endows the world with signification, that makes us desire it. We do not desire what we have. We only desire that which we could possibly have. The signification depends on something which is not itself, on a schism within "something (e.g. externally) which has some relation to "something else (e.g. internally). It is from our alienation that our longing derives.
.... either-or operations are implicit in everything human beings do or think. Only by "differenciating can we ever hope to cope with life. ...we are constantly having to slot the phenomena around us into categories: this is coffee, this is a falling tree, etc. Each time the same thing happens: one element (the coffee) is isolated from everything else (the background); we create a gestalt. In other words, we employ the rule known as "not: this is not background. So the "not-rule is the first requirement for making sense of this world.
This figure depicts a gestalt: a circle (A) on a white background (B).Within this figure we have, in fact, made a differentiation between something which is B and something which is not B but A. We will refer to this as "digitization: making a hole in something continuous. The word "not correponds to the circumferance of the hole, the boundary between hole and not-hole. "Not is a boundary, it is unique because it exists nowhere but in the mind of the one who pictured it, the observer. The boundary - or "difference- is neither part of the hole nor part of the background; it is in fact a mental exercise. It forms the very roots of signification: the boundary is not part of the world unless "someone chooses to picture it.
Hoffmeyer Signs of Meaning