Peirce laid the groundwork for (what is now called) biosemiotics by devising a diagrammatic model of thought processes which not only clarified human ways of meaning but also aimed to ‘represent every variety of non-human thought’:
Thought is not necessarily connected with a brain. It appears in the work of bees, of crystals, and throughout the purely physical world; and one can no more deny that it is really there, than that the colors, the shapes, etc., of objects are really there. Consistently adhere to that unwarrantable denial, and you will be driven to some form of idealistic nominalism akin to Fichte’s. Not only is thought in the organic world, but it develops there. But as there cannot be a General without Instances embodying it, so there cannot be thought without Signs. We must here give ‘Sign’ a very wide sense, no doubt, but not too wide a sense to come within our definition. Admitting that connected Signs must have a Quasi-mind, it may further be declared that there can be no isolated sign. Moreover, signs require at least two Quasi-minds; a Quasi-utterer and a Quasi-interpreter; and although these two are at one (i.e., are one mind) in the sign itself, they must nevertheless be distinct. In the Sign they are, so to say, welded. Accordingly, it is not merely a fact of human Psychology, but a necessity of Logic, that every logical evolution of thought should be dialogic. You may say that all this is loose talk; and I admit that, as it stands, it has a large infusion of arbitrariness. It might be filled out with argument so as to remove the greater part of this fault; but in the first place, such an expansion would require a volume — and an uninviting one; and in the second place, what I have been saying is only to be applied to a slight determination of our system of diagrammatization, which it will only slightly affect; so that, should it be incorrect, the utmost certain effect will be a danger that our system may not represent every variety of non-human thought.
If we identify ‘thought’ with teleodynamic process (as we do in Chapter 10), we can agree that at least the reference to crystals was ‘loose talk,’ since the growth of a crystal is only a morphodynamic process in Deacon’s terms. However, Thirdness is implicit in any process, though perhaps not as prominent as it is in semiosis. Peirce refers to the work of crystals, and Deacon (2011) shows that teleodynamic work can indeed be described in purely physical terms, so there is a definite connection between Peirce on ‘thought’ and Deacon on emergence. There could be a hint of this connection in the manuscript reading of ‘inorganic’ rather than ‘organic’ in the sentence above, which was printed as: ‘Not only is thought in the organic world, but it develops there.’ (See Houser 2005, ‘The Scent of Truth’.) This does not imply that everything existing or occurring in the physical universe is a sign, only that it has the potential to be read as a sign by an observer who recognizes it as participating in a process.