A couple of days ago I composed and submitted my abstract "Introducing biosemiotic ethics" to the session "Biosemiotic ethics", which is to be held Friday September 19th at the 12th World Congress of Semiotics (Sofia, Bulgaria, September 16-20). See below.
Introducing biosemiotic ethics
Morten Tønnessen, Associate professor in philosophy at University of Stavanger, Norway
In this paper, which sets the scene for the session “Biosemiotic ethics”, I start out by outlining various contributions to biosemiotic ethics (Hoffmeyer 1993, Kull 2001, Tønnessen 2003, Beever 2011, Beever and Tønnessen 2013, Acampora 2014, Tønnessen and Beever, forthcoming), and also refer briefly to semioethics and existential semiotics.
Next I ask: How does biosemiotic ethics differ from other approaches within normative ethics? Relatedly: How have contributions to biosemiotic ethics drawn on other approaches in normative ethics? In this second section of the paper I will particularly relate to Bentham 1823 and Singer 2002 , and ask: In what ways does a biosemiotic ethics potentially take us beyond sentience-centered approaches? Does biosemiotic ethics represent a new form of consequentialism, or should it be placed within some other tradition?
In the third and concluding section of the paper, I raise a number of questions which should be investigated in the future development of biosemiotic ethics, namely: What ramifications do different views on the semiotic threshold have within the context of normative ethics? Is there (something akin to) normativity in the very constitution of the Umwelt? Does the semiosphere at large (qua biosphere) have intrinsic value? And what, in terms of biosemiosis, is the origin of value?
Acknowledgement: This work has been carried out thanks to the support of the research project “Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural Mediation and Semiotic Analysis” (EEA Norway Grants/Norway Financial Mechanism 2009–2014 under project contract no. EMP151).
Acampora, Ralph R. 2014. The (proto-)ethical significance of semiosis: When and how does one become somebody who matters? In Kadri Tüür and Morten Tønnessen (eds) 2014: The Semiotics of Animal Representations (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi), 343–362.
Beever, Jonathan 2011. Meaning matters: The biosemiotic basis of bioethics. Biosemiotics 5(2): 181–191.
Beever, Jonathan and Morten Tønnessen 2013. “Darwin und die englische Moral”: The moral consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt theory. Biosemiotics 6(3): 437–447.
Bentham, Jeremy 1823. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (2nd edition).
Hoffmeyer, Jesper 1993. Biosemiotics and ethics. In Nina Witoszek and Elisabeth Gulbrandsen (eds) 1993: Culture and Environment: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Oslo: Centre for Development and the Environment), 152–176.Kull, Kalevi 2001. Biosemiotics and the problem of intrinsic value of nature. Sign Systems Studies 29(1): 353–365.Singer, Peter 2002 . Animal Liberation. New York: Random House, Inc.Tønnessen, Morten 2003. Umwelt ethics. Sign Systems Studies 31 (1): 281–299.
Tønnessen, Morten and Jonathan Beever, forthcoming (2015). Beyond sentience: Biosemiotics as foundation for animal and environmental ethics. In John Hadley and Elisa Aaltola (eds): Animal ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).