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Victor R. Baker
Geological Society of America Bulletin (May 1999) 111 (5): 633-645


Almost alone among modern sciences, geology has preserved a method of inquiry that emphasizes synthetic reasoning for the interpretation of Earth's signified causal processes. Though geologists interpret Earth's signs via all manner of measurement, quantitative modeling, and experimentation, these are but tools for an inquiry ultimately directed at the truth of Earth's message. Geologists have always considered that message to be signified in rocks, sediments, fossils, and other signs of Earth processes. To interpret these signs, geologists do not need a foundational metaphysics to ground their reasoning, as Lyell attempted with his uniformitarianism. Instead, geologists can benefit from understanding the formal conditions of what will count as true in these signs, a topic explored through the branch of philosophy known as semiotics. The geologically relevant philosophy involves a semiotic point of view wherein signs are not mere objects of thought or language, but rather are vital entities comprising a web of signification that is continuous from outcrops to reasoning about outcrops. Such an action of signs constitutes a geosemiosis that leads geological investigators on a fruitful course of hypothesis generation. Semiotic grammar provides the means to describe the representational character of signification that is inherent in this geological reasoning. Critical logic explores the modes of inference used to seek truth in the representations, and georhetoric attains truth as a matter of belief. While not being a method for doing geology, semiotics provides a means of describing the highly productive reasoning processes of geologists.

ISSN: 0016-7606
EISSN: 1943-2674
Serial Title: Geological Society of America Bulletin
Serial Volume: 111
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Geosemiosis
Author(s): Baker, Victor R.
Affiliation: University of Arizona, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, Tucson, AZ, United States
Pages: 633-645
Published: 199905
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 89
Accession Number: 1999-037050
Categories: Miscellaneous
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: Presidential address, Geol. Soc. Am., annual meeting, Oct. 26, 1998; Ariz. Univ. Metageoscientific Inquiries (AUMIN), Contrib. No. 12
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 1 table
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2019, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 199913
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