The Four Quadrants: A Guided Tour

Originally published at:

Ken and Corey take a in-depth tour through one of Ken’s most well-known contributions to integral philosophy: the Four Quadrants. Watch as Ken shares his personal story about the origins of the Four Quadrant model — the day everything came together — as he weaves 3rd-person theoretical descriptions of the model with his own 1st-person experience and creative process.

Very important topic, this.

Biosemiotic theory (Jakob von Uexküll) in synthesis with semiotic theory (Charles Sanders Peirce) fits very well within the context of the four quadrants and Ken’s thesis. I seem to recall that Ken is familiar with CS Peirce, because it was several years ago that his reference to Peirce first caught my attention.

Why is Peircean semiotics so important? Because it provides a basis for understanding the categories of thought (motivation, association and habituation) within the context of the mind-body (holon) that apprehends experience (relates to Peirce’s pragmatism and his categories). It is the body that provides the interface between Mind and “reality”. Thus, humans with vocal chords, hands and culture, will interpret reality very differently to earthworms, or bats, or other creatures with four paws, tail and fur, or bees laboring to produce honey in a beehive.

The biosemiotic-semiotic synthesis explains why reality can never ever be seen “as it truly is”, because there is no such thing as “objective” reality. Every living entity is trapped within the subjective confines of its body, upon which it relies to define its experiences and the things that matter (again, Peirce’s pragmatism). There is no way to escape those bodily confines. And from Norman Doidge (The Brain That Changes Itself) we know that experiences wire the neuroplastic brain (ALL brains, btw, are neuroplastic, not just human).

IMHO, the semiotic/biosemiotic synthesis provides indications of the sort of paradigm for the life sciences that Isaac Newton provided for the physical sciences. Same sort of “axiomatic framework” thinking, providing the basis for fundamental principles, or axioms. The four quadrants would fit beautifully into this framework.

Some relevant links for further reading:

New Scientist article:

Alternative, more accessible link to the New Scientist article:

Biosemiotics blog:
International society for biosemiotics studies:
Peirce blog: