The history and philosophy of biosignatures

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This chapter examines the human search, understanding, and interpretation of biosignatures. It deals with four epistemological issues in the search for signs of life in outer space: (1) conceptualization, how we form concepts of life in astrobiology, how we define and categorize things, and the relation between our concepts and our knowledge of the world; (2) analogy, how we see similarities between things, and with inductive, analogical reasoning go from what we know to what we do not know, from the only example of life here on Earth, to possible extraterrestrial life; (3) perception, how we interpret what our senses convey in our search for biosignatures, how the information we get from the surrounding world is processed in our minds; and (4) the semiotics of biosignatures, how we, as interpreters, establish connections between things, between the expression (the biosignature) and the content (the living organism) in various forms of semiosis, as icons, indices, and symbols of life. In all, it is about how we get access to the world, and how we interpret and understand it, for achieving a well-grounded knowledge about the living Universe.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas
  • Philosophy
  • Other Natural Sciences


  • Astrobiology, Biosignatures, History of Science, Philosophy of Science, Semiotics
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiosignatures for Astrobiology
EditorsBarbara Cavalazzi, Frances Westall
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-96175-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-96174-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameAdvances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics
ISSN (Print)1610-8957
ISSN (Electronic)1613-1851