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Reviving the Living - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780444530332, 9780080560410

Reviving the Living, Volume 6

1st Edition

Meaning Making in Living Systems

Author: Yair Neuman
Hardcover ISBN: 9780444530332
eBook ISBN: 9780080560410
Imprint: Elsevier Science
Published Date: 7th April 2008
Page Count: 320
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Table of Contents

PART 1. HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? REDUCTIONISM AND ITS LIMITATIONS Ch. 1: What is Reductionism? Ch. 2: Who is Reading the Book of Life? Ch. 3: Genetics: From Grammar to Meaning Making Ch. 4: A Point for Thought: Why are Organisms Irreducible? Ch. 5: A Point for Thought: Does the Genetic System Include a Meta-Language? Ch. 6: Immunology: From Soldiers to Housewives? Ch. 7: A Point for Thought: Immune Specificity and Brancusi's Kiss Ch. 8: A Point for Thought: Reflections on the Immune Self

PART 2. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS STORY? Ch. 9: Meaning Making in Language and Biology Ch. 10: God's Sacred Words Ch. 11: It Means Nothing Ch. 12: A Point for Thought: Meaning-Bridging the Gap Between Physics and Semantics Ch. 13: The Rest is Silence

PART 3. ON THE WILD SIDE: FOUR LESSONS Ch. 14: The Polysemy of the Sign: A Quantum Lesson Ch. 15: Recursive-Hierarchy: A Lesson From the Tardigrade Ch. 16: Context and Memory: A Lesson From Funes the Memorious Ch. 17: Transgradience: A Lesson from Bakhtin

PART 4. FROM MECHANICS TO POIESIS Ch. 18: The Poetry of Living


Reviving the Living: Meaning Making in Living Systems presents a novel perspective that relates to current biological knowledge and issues. Written by polymath Dr. Yair Neuman, the book challenges the dogmas that frame our understanding of living systems and presents a radical alternative approach to understanding the world around us, one that avoids the pitfalls of non-scientific perspectives such as Vitalism and Creationism.

In this thought provoking and iconoclastic manuscript, Neuman follows the footsteps of Gregory Bateson, Mikhail Bakhtin, Michael Polanyi and others, to suggest that living systems are meaning making systems. The book delves into the unique processes of meaning making that characterize organisms as a unique category of nature, and offers new and fascinating insights into a variety of enigmatic biological phenomena from immune memory to hidden life (cryptobiosis). It consists of four parts divided into 18 chapters and covers topics ranging from reductionism and its pitfalls to genetics; why organisms are irreducible; immunology; meaning making in language and biology; meaning-bridging the gap between physics and semantics; context and memory; and the poetry of living. Core concepts and themes are illustrated using examples based in current science.

This text would be of high interest to biologists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and semioticians, as well as to any reflective individual who is willing to examine the realm of the living from a novel and fascinating perspective.

Key Features

  • Presents a novel perspective that relates to current biological knowledge and issues
  • Poses thought provoking ideas for theoretical biologists, those studying philosophy of science and the mind, cognitive scientists, semioticians, and people involved with Artificial Intelligence.
  • Includes examples based in current science to illustrate core concepts and themes


Biologists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, semioticians, general audience


No. of pages:
© Elsevier Science 2008
7th April 2008
Elsevier Science
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:


"Neuman's approach is an ingenious way to introduce an issue…" "A compilation of highly interesting topic that will undoubtedly transform the way readers think about organisms". Angewandte Chemie International 2009.

"This enthusiastically written and thought-provoking book … challenges dogmas of received wisdom such as reductionism, both mechanical and genetic… Neuman’s observations about the fallacy of sacrificing real-world properties in the interest of formal tractability are of great importance to systems thinkers, analysts, and modelers in various application areas, who wish to avoid serious failures in their work".  Computing Reviews 2009 (an ACM Review Journal)

"Neuman presents a fascinating analysis of biological interactions that aims to transcend the sort of billiard-ball model of causation that seems to be presupposed by the reductionists who are his target… Neuman has put the issues into what seems to be a more appropriate context, and that is a splendid accomplishment". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 2009.

Ratings and Reviews

About the Author

Yair Neuman

Affiliations and Expertise

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel