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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Philosophy business: Tiny numbers

About a month ago I did the accounts of my commercial, private company "Spør Filosofen" (SF) [Ask the philosopher]. In 2012, SF had 200 NOK (some 25 Euro) in revenue, and 3,740,75 NOK (some 470 Euro) in expenses, resulting in a loss of 3.540,75 NOK (some 445 Euro). 

2013 looks slightly better in terms of revenue.

Guest lecture in criminology seminar at UiO; book chapter "Menneskeveldet" compulsory reading

For the third year in a row, I have been invited to give a guest lecture in a seminar in eco-global criminology offered by University of Oslo. Professor Guri Larsen is responsible for the course.

The title of my talk is "Menneskeveldet - menneskets globale økologiske hierarki" [The human empire - Man's global ecological hierarchy], and it has been scheduled for Wednesday October 23rd, at 12pm-2pm.

This year a text written by me - the book chapter "Menneskeveldet" from the Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man] - is compulsory reading in the course.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Guest lecture at Centre for Cognitive Semitics, Lund, scheduled for October 24th

I have been invited, and accepted, to give a lecture in the research seminar of Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund, Sweden. On Thursday October 24th at 1-3 pm I will present (and have discussed) my paper "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt".

See also:
Abstract for NASS VIII: "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt" 

Revised title for Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2013

The theme and title for this year's Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference (Dyreetikkonferansen in Norwegian) has been changed to "Dyrs natur under press: Hvordan vi former ville dyr i vårt bilde" [Animals' nature under pressure: How we shape animals in our own image].

See also:

Friday, 28 June 2013

Book chapter excerpt on human distinctiveness in Norwegian weekly

In the current issue of the Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet, 28 June - 4 July, a 2-page book chapter excerpt written by Norwegian biologist Dag Hessen titled "Menneskets særpreg" [Man's distinctiveness] is published. The essay is a revised and abbreviated version of Hessen's chapter in our recently published book Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], edited by Ragnhild Sollund, Guri Larsen and myself, and there is a reference to our book at the end of the essay. 

Morgenbladet has about 100.000 readers (not to be confused with subscribers).

An orangutang ear, hardly distinguishable from a human ear.

Mention of Norwegian animal ethics conference in MAI bulletin no. 17

In the 17th bulletin of Minding Animals International, reference is made to seven upcoming Partner Events, including:

22 August, 2013: Oslo, Norway
Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2013

I am the contact person. For up-to-date information about what is in Norwegian called Dyreetikkonferansen 2013, see the conference website (in Norwegian). More info will appear soon.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Letter to the editor in Aftenposten about climate benefits of reduced oil production

Today a letter to the editor written by me was published in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. Titled, in the printed version, "Oljekutt og regneferdigheter" [Oil cut and numeracy skills], it addresses research carried out by researchers at Statistics Norway and is written as a reply to a comment by undersecretary of Ministry of Finance Kjetil Lund (Labour).

The full text is posted in my Norwegian-language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Causerie on play published in Norwegian magazine

A short text by me, written upon invitation, has been published on the Norwegian Christian magazine Kors:vei [literally "cross-road", or "stations of the cross"], in its #2/2013 (page 4). Titled "Om lek og blodig alvor" [On play and /bloody seriousness/], it treats play as the origin of cooperation and what is much worse. A couple of references are made to observations described in more academic fashion in my academic journal article "Abstraction,Cruelty and Other Aspects of Animal Play (Exemplified By the Playfulness of Muki and Maluca)" (Sign Systems Studies 37(3/4): 558-579).

The whole text - in Norwegian - is posted in my Norwegian-language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Book review on wolf conflicts published online in sociology journal

The Norwegian academic journal Sosiologi idag [Sociology today] has published its second issue of 2013 online. It is a Special Issue on "Dyr i samfunnet" [Animals in society], guest-edited by Ragnhild Sollund, and includes my book review of Skogen et al.'s Ulvekonflikter [Wolf conflicts].

Corrrection to my latest post on this review: The Norwegian-language summary does indeed appear - at least online (see here).

See also:

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The 2013 General Assembly of NASS

On May 30th in Aarhus, during the Eight Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS), the General Assembly of NASS was held. I had been asked to chair the elections, and did so. In the past two years I have among other things served as Webmaster (at times one of two) and as one of two newsletter editors.

I renominated as secretary of NASS, and as Ordinary Representative for Norway, and was reelected along with most of the rest of the board. Sara Lenninger was elected Treausurer, replacing Göran Sonesson, and also replace him as Sweden's Ordinary Representative, accompanied by Aleksei Semenenko as Alternative Representative. Furthermore Søren Brier replaces Kristian Tylén (the Aarhus conference convenor) as Denmark's Alternative Representative. Luis Emilio Bruni was reelected as President.

"Umwelt and language" completed, to appear in Cahiers de l'ILSL

About four weeks ago I finished my article "Umwelt and language", which is to appear this autumn in a special issue of the Swiss journal Cahiers de l'ILSL [l'Institut de Linguistique et des Sciences du Langage] on biosemiotic perspectives on language guest-edited by Ekaterina Velmezova, Stephen Cowley and Kalevi Kull.

1. Introduction
2. 'I language, therefore I model'
2.1 Uexküll and language
2.2 Is language external or internal to the Umwelt? 
2.3 The tripartite Umwelt model
3. Languaging as perception, action and self-deception
3.1 Languaging is more-than-linguistic
3.2 Language and self-deception: The anthropocentric mistake
3.3 In search of the dark matter of our enlightened worlds
4. The genesis and modalities of language
4.1 Origin and evolution of language
4.2 Acquisition of language in childhood
4.3 The various linguistic modalities of the human Umwelt
5. Beyond the anthropocentric mistake: Languaging as if nature mattered
It is often asserted that the existence of human language sets us apart from non-humans, and makes us incomparably special. And indeed human language does make our Umwelt (Uexküll), our lifeworld, uniquely open-ended. However, by committing what I term the anthropocentric mistake, i.e. falsely assuming that all true reality is linguistic, we close in on ourselves and our language-derived practices, and as a result we lose sight of much that truly matters (including a proper understanding of our human nature). Like Sebeok and Hoffmeyer I hold that language is a modeling system, but unlike them I argue that language is not external to the Umwelt, but internal to it. Language changes the human Umwelt not by escaping or sidelining it, but by fundamentally transforming it. In consequence supra-linguistic phenomena as well are modeled as internal to the human Umwelt. The Umwelt model presented is termed the tripartite Umwelt model, and includes three aspects of Umwelt: The core Umwelt, the mediated Umwelt and the conceptual Umwelt. Linguistic practices are placed within the latter, but it is furthermore claimed that a number of animals too have conceptual Umwelten, which is said to be characterized by predicative reasoning, the attribution of specific features to someone or something. The activity of languaging is presented as more-than-linguistic, with reference to the distributed language perspective. Given all the dark matter underpinning and surrounding verbal practices, a foray into the hinterland of language is called for. A section on the genesis and modalities of language addresses the origin and evolution of language, acquisition of language in childhood and a simple typology of the various linguistic modalities of the human Umwelt. The concluding section treats Puura’s notion of semiocide, and the question: How can we language as if nature mattered?

Keywords: the anthropocentric mistake, dark cognitive matter, dark cultural matter, distributed language, first-order languaging, genesis of language, perception, semiocide, Umwelt theory

Monday, 17 June 2013

Ontogeny of early human Umwelt paper presented

My paper "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt" was presented on the Eight Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) Thursday May 30th, at Aarhus university. It was eventually rescheduled (see program) to 15.15-15.45 (from 14.45-15.15). Some 30 people attended the biosemiotic sessions.

Link to NASS 8 abstract book

Here's a link to the abstract book of the Eight Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies, "Sign evolution on multiple time scales". The abstract to my paper, "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt", is to be found on page 43. 

Book review (Abram and Stibbe) finished; accepted; proof-read

Towards the end of May I finished a book review for Journal of Multicultural Discourses (published by Taylor & Francis), which had been commissioned by Sune Vork Steffensen, who were a review editor at the time. The review is titled "Discourses gone astray: Restoring animality, humanity, and language", and reviews the following two books:
Becoming animal: an earthly cosmology, by David Abram, New York, Pantheon Books, 2010, xi + 313 pp., US$26.95 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-375-42171-6 
Animals erased: discourse, ecology, and reconnection with the natural world, by Arran Stibbe, Middletown – Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 2012, viii + 209 pp., US$24.95/£22.50 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-8195-7232-5
My review was accepted a few days later, and a couple of days ago I proof-read it. The text will soon appear online, and then, either late in 2013 or early in 2014, in print.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Reference to my contributions to Norwegian HAS anthology

The anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man] was published by Spartacus forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press on May 15th. Here I present a list of full references to the contributions I am involved in as an author.
Sollund, Ragnhild, Guri Larsen og Morten Tønnessen 2013. Forord [Preface]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder, Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 7.  
Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen 2013. Introduksjon: Fra bruksdyr til dyreverd [Introduction: From animals of utility to animal dignity]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder, Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 9-36.  
Tønnessen, Morten 2013. Menneskeveldet [The human empire]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder, Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 37-56. 
Tønnessen, Morten 2013. Hvem er villest i landet her? Et ulveliv [Who is wildest in this country here? A wolf's life]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder, Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 79-98. 
As detailed in the preface, the book is dedicated to the memory of Tinga [a bird], Singa [a dog], and Matias Laurits da Silva-Tønnessen, the latter being my son.

My bionote is on page 378.

Reference for forthcoming book review on wolf conflicts

Some three weeks back I proof-read my book review which is to appear in the Norwegian academic journal Sosiologi idag [Sociology today] this autumn. The review will appear with no title, and no summary (correction to previous post). Reference:
Tønnessen, Morten 2013. Ketil Skogen, Olve Krange og Helene Figari 2013, Ulvekonflikter – en sosiologisk studie, Oslo 2013: Akademika forlag. Book review. Sosiologi idag 43(2): 117-122.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Extra teaching - or not

Some weeks back I was asked whether I could teach theory of science for students of public health care (helsesøsterutdanning) at my department at University of Stavanger, Department of Health Studies. Amounting to six hours of teaching, the classes would take place in mid-September. I confirmed. However, somewhat later I was informed that an agreement had been reached with another scholar who had taught this earlier.

Absence from final UiS board meeting

Though I had been planning for months to attend this academic year's final University of Stavanger board meeting, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, today and tomorrow, I eventually had to cancel and notify the secretary that I would be absent. This is because I now have a second gall stone (following the first one in March, which led to quite some complications), which is causing me pain and discomfort. This would have been my last meeting, since my bid for reelection was not successful. I have served in the board of UiS since October 2012.

Cognitive semiotics membership

I have become a member of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics (IACS), which was founded May 29th in Aarhus, Denmark, during the Eight Conference of Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS).

Friday, 7 June 2013

My vision for the journal Biosemiotics

As was made public at last night's General Meeting of the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies (ISBS), I am one of five nominees for the position of Editor-in Chief of the academic journal Biosemiotics, nominated by current Editor-in-Chief Marcello Barbieri.

The nominee with the most support in the biosemiotic community is Alexei Sharov. Although I primarily run for the position myself, I secondarily support Alexei. He would be an excellent choice, with his long experience, innovative approach and placement in systems theory biosemiotics.

This is what I have written to Springer's Senior Publishing Editor Catherine Cotton:
first of all, I confirm that I am willing to serve as a member of the editorial board in the way you describe. Second, I signal that I am interested in being considered for the position of Editor-in-Chief (primarily) or book series editor (secondarily), with the following agenda: I would...  
1) actively make use of citation data, sales/download data etc. in developing strategy and working to improve the standing of the journal (or book series) 

2) be undogmatic in dealing with contributors 

3) be open to making use of different semiotic traditions, Peircean and non-Peircean (and, within Piercean biosemiotics, be undogmatic and emphasise the value of diversity in interpretation) 

4) seek to make room for and highlight 'third paths' alongside Peircean biosemiotics and code biology, including for biosemiotics built on systems theory (represented e.g. by Aleksei Sharov) 

5) encourage collaboration across 'schools' and traditions (while also allowing for competition between them) 

6) assure a certain balance between orientation towards natural science, the humanities (including philosophy) and social sciences 

7) stimulate discourse and debate on fundamentals, including those on which we diverge 

8) emphasise the central role played by Uexküll's Umwelt theory, and encourage further development of Umwelt theory 

9) stimulate development of, and showcasing of, concrete applications of biosemiotic theory, in order to go beyond theory and methodology and move towards innovative scientific observations and breaktroughs 

10) initiate the creation of a biosemiotic glossary [...]. This would either take the form of a single project - a Special Issue or a book volume - or of an article series in the journal, with a section in each (regular) issue being devoted to a review of one key term per issue. Each review would map different uses and interpretations of the key term reviewed, and suggest synthesis in the form of a new definition. The long-term goal of the glossary project would be to be approaching concensus on the understanding of key terms, and thus contribute to biosemiotics' development as a maturing scientific field. In addition to literature studies/review the work with the glossary would likely involve a broad and representative survey among biosemioticians.