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Friday, 18 August 2017

Abstract for MAC4: "The semiotics of predation and the Umwelten of large predators"

I have just submitted the abstract below to the organizers of Minding Animals Conference 4 (Mexico City, January 17-24th 2018).


The Semiotics of Predation and The Umwelten of Large Predators
This paper aims to present fundamental findings related to the semiotics of predation, and point out a few typical features of the Umwelten (lifeworlds) of large predators.

Carnivores are emblematic of the brutality of nature in that, apparently, in order to live, they have to take lives – as most animals do. Carnivores are generally associated with predatory behaviour, although not all carnivores are predators. Predators thus form a subcategory of carnivores, and are correctly associated with killing – causing death, fear and, to varying degrees, suffering.

In general, when preying on other animals, predators intend to kill, but they do not kill because of any malicious intentions. Nevertheless, historically, predators have a reputation for being beasts ruled by hunger and are still, perhaps unfairly, looked upon as iconic murderers.

What all carnivores have in common is that they eat meat and that they hunt and/or scavenge. As a subcategory of carnivores, besides eating meat, large predatory carnivores have in common that they hunt and kill other animals. In terms of the four main functional cycles referred to by Jakob von Uexküll in his Umwelt theory, predators are thereby characterized by the functional cycle that involves food. The key contrapuntal relation involved in the Umwelten of large predators is, from this perspective, that of predator and prey. Whereas for predators, prey have the functional tone of food, for prey, predators have the functional tone of an enemy – a lethal threat.

These common features of large predator Umwelten indicate selective empathy. However, as any social animal, large predators also, to varying degrees, engage in a number of positive social relations.

Abstract for MAC4: "The cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep"

I have just submitted the abstract below to the organizers of Minding Animals Conference 4 (Mexico City, January 17-24th 2018).


The cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep

Morten Tønnessen
University of Stavanger, Norway

Wolves and sheep go together – at least in the public mind. They are among the most widespread mammals of wild and domesticated species respectively. While the wolf is in several countries the most controversial large carnivore, it is also, and not coincidentally, the most symbolically laden Western carnivore. The wolf is a symbol of large carnivores, governmental interference in local issues, freedom and authenticity, evil, hunger, sexuality, etc. Sheep, on the other hand, represent among other things innocence and vulnerability (and, of course – food, wool and thus economic value).
The juxtaposition of the symbolism of wolves and sheep go all the way back to the Bible, if not even further. In the Bible, this archetypical opposition is only resolved in the vision of a new Earth and new Heavens, when, in this new paradise, “[t]he wolf and the lamb will feed together” (Isaiah 65:25). Meanwhile, everybody “knows” that wolves prey on sheep. However, many would be surprised to learn that in Norway, wolves over time only account for less than a tenth of depredation on sheep. This demonstrates the way in which people are informed not only by facts, but also by cultural imagery.
Familiarity with the cultural imagery of wolves and sheep is arguably a precondition for fully understanding the fierce human emotions that are invoked in social and political conflicts on wolf management and conservation. Although there are local variations, and even though imagery and symbolism can change over time, the “background noise”, as it were, of the historical cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep is significant practically wherever there are, or were, wolves.

Registered for MAC4, Mexico City

I have just registered for Minding Animals Conference 4, to be held in Mexico City in January 2017. this will be my third Minding Animals Conference.

To take part in "Philosophy and Animals" panel

In Bulletin 43 issued by Minding Animals International, I am listed as one of the panelists in the panel "Philosophy and Animals", which is to be held during Minding Animals Conference 4, in Mexico City in January 2018.
I have been assigned a master student in social work for master thesis supervision until next Spring.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Teaching plan for Ex.Phil. composed

Today I have finished composing the lecture and seminar plan for this autumn´s Examen Philosophicum at Department of social studies at UiS.

Ex.Phil. presented for child welfare students

Today I presented the course Examen Philosophicum for bachelor students in child welfare at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, during the introduction week.