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Monday, 30 September 2019

Three meetings

Today I have attended the Forskingsutvalget (UIS research committee) meeting, a meeting on a cotutelle agreement, and a supervisory support group encounter in the book café.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Two invited plenary presentations given at zoo conference

Today I have given two talks at the conference of the Swedish zoo association (Svenska Djurparksföreningen), "Fremtidens dyreparker" (The zoos of the future). My talks were titled "Dyreparker i fremtiden - Om å møte samfunnets holdninger og forventninger" (Zoos in the future - about meeting society´s attitudes and expectations) and "Gjestemøter - snakker vi samme språk?" (guest meetings - do we speak the same language?). Some 40 people attended. My first lecture lasted for 70 minutes including questions, the second one 25 minutes. The conference takes place at Bjørneparken i Flå. This were invited plenary presentations.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Three meetings

Today I have attended three meetings. First the leadership group meeting at Faculty of social sciences. Then the ph.d. committee for the ph.d. in social sciences. And finally a planning meeting related to the Network for welfare research.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Autumn´s 10th article writing day

Today I have had this autumn´s 10th article writing day, devoted to work on my article "Wasted growth". Some 500 words written, this includes 2 tables generated and work on one more commenced.

COST expert

I have, upon request, confirmed my availability for review of a COST application.

Record turnout at Arne Næss Kunnskapstørst event

Yesterday I delivered the paper "Hadde Arne Næss rett om miljøkrisen?" (Was Arne Næss right about the environmental crisis?) at Måltidets hus under the banner of Kunnskapstørst and Forskningsdagene. Some 40 people attended - from what I am told, this is the biggest turnout to date for a Kunnskapstørst event in the Stavanger region.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Three planning meetings

Today I have attended a planning meeting concerning a research ethics seminar, another planning meeting on the faculty´s research report, and a planning meeting on the Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference (Dyreetikkonferansen) 2019.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Autumn´s 9th article writing day

Today I have had this autumn´s 9th article writing day, commencing work on my article "What can be known about future Umwelten?", with some 1500 words written/organized.

Dissertation dinner

Last evening I took part in a ph.d. dissertation dinner following Cato Hemmingby´s successful defense earlier the same day.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Second Ph.D. defense preceded over

Today I have preceded over the trial lecture and doctoral defense of Cato Hemmingby. He defended the ph.d. thesis "Terrorists and Targets: A Relationship Founded on Bad Intentions, Limited Capacities and Risk Willingness". His supervisors were Tore Bjørgo and Odd Einar F. Olsen. The dissertation committee consisted of Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, John Morrison and Brynjar Lia.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Three meetings

Today I have attended three meetings, including the "rector meeting" at University of Stavanger (first time - features the rector and vice rectors, the deans, and selected directors), and a meeting on the Faculty of Social Sciences´ research report.

Friday, 13 September 2019

UIS PR for Forskningsdagene

The University of Stavanger has published a news story titled "Kan marknaden redde klimaet, eller går verda til helvetet?" (Can the market save the climate, or does the world go to hell?) about UIS events during Forskningsdagene. A profile photo of me is included. The same photo is featured in the most recent UIS newsletter (distributed by email today).

"What can be known about future Umwelten?" presented at world congress in Buenes Aires; article plans

Today, at the 14th world congress of semiotics, in Buenes Aires, at Universidad Nacional de las Artes (Artes Visuales), I presented my paper "What can be known about future Umwelten?" in a parallell session. Some 17 people attended; response was positive.

I am now planning to write a journal article based on today´s presentation, to be submitted to The American Journal of Semiotics.

1000 reads for "A hundred introductions to semiotics..."

Thursday, 12 September 2019

NASS flag raised at UNA in Buenes Aires

Here in Buenes Aires I have, with the help of Alin Olteanu, raised the flag of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) in the backyard of Universidad Nacional de las Artes (UNA), one of two venues for the ongoing 14th world congress of semiotics. NASS is associated with the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS) as a regional organization.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

More on Næss lecture during Forskningsdagene

The Kunnskapstørst event September 19th is referred to on the intranet of University of Stavanger in an overview over Forskningsdagene (research days) events locally. There´s now also a Facebook event for my public lecture on Arne Næss (see also previous post).

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Research days "Kunnskapstørst" talk announced

On Thursday September 19th I will give the talk "Hadde Arne Næss rett om miljøkrisen?" (Was Arne Næss right about the environmental crisis?) at 4 pm. at Måltidets hus (Stavanger). This is an "Kunnskapstørst" event (a popular science lecture series organized by Validé, University of Stavanger and Innovasjonspark Stavanger) that is part of Forskningsdagene 2019 (national research days). The event has been announced on the webpage of Validé. Register here (for free). Also announced by Forskningsdagene, here.

Tripartite Umwelt model applied and further developed in ecocriticism MA thesis of Hernández

Mauricio Sánchez Hernández has written the master thesis "Mariposas imaginando árboles de oyamel: Representaciones literarias del umwelt de la monarca migrante y del humano en la ecoliteratura de Homero Aridjis" (in Spanish) at University of Oslo. He refers quite extensively to an article, especially with regard to the tripartite Umwelt model:
Tønnessen, Morten (2015). “Umwelt and language”. En: E. Velmezova, Stephen J. Cowley y K. Kull (eds.), Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistics (Biosemiotics 13): 77-96. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-20663-9_5
The thesis includes a section numbered 2.2.2 and named "El modelo tripartito del umwelt según Tønnessen". Hernández also further develops diagrams based on the tripartite Umwelt model, cf. below (imagen 5, p. 21, imagen 6, p. 21, imagen 7, p. 22).

Monday, 9 September 2019

In Buenes Aires to attend 14th world congress in semiotics

Today I have arrived in Buenes Aires, Argentina, to attend the 14th world congress of semiotics at the National University of Arts (UNA) and Centro Cultural General San Martins. After a 29 hour long travel, and an hour at the hotel, I attended a first session.

This is my first time in Argentina - and the farthest South I have ever been (beating Sydney, which I visited in 2011, in this respect).

Svendsen book review proof-read

I have just read and reviewed page proofs for my forthcoming book review. Full reference:

Tønnessen, Morten, forthcoming, 2019. Lars Fr. H. Svendsen: Å forstå dyr: Filosofi for hunde- og katteelskere. Book review. Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 54(3): 187–190. DOI: 10.18261/issn.1504-2901-2019-03-06

Sunday, 8 September 2019

To give two talks at Swedish zoo association conference "The zoos of the future"

I am scheduled to speak twice at the Swedish zoo association conference "Fremtidens dyreparker" (The zoos of the future), which takes place at Bjørneparken (Flå, Norway) September 25-27th 2019. On November 26th I will give the two talks detailed below. I am presented as professor of philosophy (University of Stavanger) and member of Norway´s Council for animal ethics.
 12.15-13.15 «Dyreparker i fremtiden – om å møte samfunnets holdninger og forventninger»  
— 13.30-13.50 «Gjestemøter»

Norwegian animal ethics conference to be held November 21st

Dyreetikkonferansen 2019 (Norwegian animal ethics conference 2019) will take place on Litteraturhuset (Oslo) Thursday November 21st. The planning group consists of Kristian Ellingsen, Knut Bøe, Guri Larsen and me.

After Minding Animals Norway decided to shut down last autumn, the conference is now run solely by Norway´s Council for animal ethics.

Biosemiotics 12(2) published

Biosemiotics 12(2) has now been published (p. 195-356 in this year´s volume). This is likely the last issue to have been edited by me, Alexei Sharov, and Timo Maran (as EiC replacement is in progress).

Friday, 6 September 2019

Autumn´s 8th article writing day

Today I had the autumn´s 8th article writing day (half writing day, adding to the 7,5 previous ones), with some 3 hours devoted to revising my chapter abstract for a semiotics companion work and doing some work on my "Wasted growth" article. Altogether some 600 words written.

Revised abstract: "Semiotics in ethology and zoology"

I have just revised my chapter abstract for a planned multi-volume companion to semiotics, reiterated below. The initial version is to be found here.


Semiotics in ethology and zoology
Morten Tønnessen
Zoosemiotics, the semiotic study of topics of ethology, zoology and other animal-related fields, historically emerged as a precursor to biosemiotics and ecosemiotics, with common roots in the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1921, 1934), among other sources of inspiration (see e.g. Kleisner 2008). Thomas Sebeok (1972, 1990) coined the term, established von Uexküll as a key figure in zoosemiotics, and made initial connections between semiotic theory and animal studies. Von Uexküll´s semiotically framed work has influenced ethology directly and also by way of Konrad Lorenz (1935, 1961 [1949]). In contemporary times, Dario Martinelli (2010) and others have developed a history of zoosemiotics as well as contributed to expanding and further developing the range of semiotic studies of animals (see also Maran et al. (eds.) 2011). 
Key developments in semiotic approaches to animal studies in recent years have their origin in Italy, France, the Czech republic and Estonia, among other countries. Attempts at synthesis with related fields or approaches have been made e.g. with regard to ecology and ecological economics (Farina 2012), Actor-Network Theory, posthumanities, anthropology, and Human–animal studies/anthrozoology. Other developments are related to work contextualizing Umwelt theory, e.g. within philosophy (phenomenology – Buchanan 2008; philosophical anthropology – Brentari 2015), or criticizing the classical version of Umwelt theory while aiming to update it (e.g. Tønnessen 2009). Furthermore, zoosemiotics has been contextualized within ethology (e.g. Maran 2010).
Critical discussion and integration with related approaches is now resulting in novel models and methods, many of which originating in a growing number of case studies (e.g. Maran et al. 2016). Focus is shifting from objective descriptions of differences in sensory apparatus, communication channels etc. to more dynamical representations with more emphasis on interaction (e.g. Lestel 2011) and hybridity, thus challenging mainstream dichotomies. Particularly, there is rising interest in human–animal interaction, and many authors frame descriptive accounts about such interaction as being situated within an ethical outlook. In doing so, they underline the moral relevance of human–animal sign exchange and the ways in which human semiosis ultimately affect animals.
Today, zoosemiotics is arguably the theoretically and empirically soundest approach to “taking the animal´s perspective”. In the near future, work is needed that 1) connects semiotic studies in ethology and zoology with issues in global human ecology, 2) develops flexible zoosemiotic tools and methodology for application by field ethologists, veterinarians, zookeepers etc., and 3) makes further connections with phenomenology, ethnography, and anthropology by developing tools and methodology tailor-made for studies related to human agents and their dealings with animals. 

Buchanan, Brett (2008). Onto-Ethologies: The Animal Environments of Uexküll, Heidegger, Merleau, and Deleuze. New York: SUNY Press.
Brentari, Carlo (2015). Jakob von Uexküll: The discovery of the Umwelt between Biosemiotics and theoretical biology(Biosemiotics 9). Springer.
Farina, Almo (2012). A Biosemiotic perspective of the resource criterion: toward a general theory of resources. Biosemiotics 5 (1), 17–32. 
Kleisner, Karel (2008). The semantic morphology of Adolf Portmann: A starting point for the biosemiotics of organic form? Biosemiotics1(2): 207–219.
Lestel, Dominique (2011). What capabilities for the animal? Biosemiotics4(1): 83– 102.
Lorenz, Konrad (1935). Der Kumpan in der Umwelt des Vogels. Journal für Ornithologie 83: 137–213.
Lorenz, Konrad (1961 [1949]). King Solomon’s Ring. Transl. by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. London:  Methuen.
Martinelli, Dario (2010). A Critical Companion to Zoosemiotics: People, Paths, Ideas, (Biosemiotics 5). Berlin: Springer.
Maran, Timo (2010). Why was Thomas A. Sebeok not a cognitive ethologist? From “animal mind” to “semiotic self”. Biosemiotics 3(3): 315–329.
Maran, Timo; Martinelli, Dario; Turovski, Aleksei (eds.) (2011). Readings in Zoosemiotics, (Semiotics, Communication and Cognition 8). Berlin: DeGruyter Mouton.
Maran, Timo, Morten Tønnessen, Kristin Armstrong Oma, Laura Kiiroja, Riin Magnus, Nelly Mäekivi, Silver Rattasepp, Paul Thibault & Kadri Tüür (2016). Animal Umwelten in a changing world – Zoosemiotic perspectives(Tartu Semiotics Library 18) (eds. Timo Maran, Morten Tønnessen & Silver Rattasepp). Tartu: Tartu University Press.
Sebeok, Thomas A. (1972). Perspectives in Zoosemiotics(Janua Linguarum. Series Minor 122). The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.
Sebeok, Thomas A. (1990). Essays in Zoosemiotics(Monograph Series of the TSC 5). Toronto: Toronto Semiotic Circle; Victoria College in the University of Toronto.
Tønnessen, Morten (2009). Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change. Biosemiotics2: 47–64.
von Uexküll, Jakob (1921). Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere. (2nd ed.) Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer.
von Uexküll, Jakob (1934). Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Hamburg: Rowohlt. Reprinted in Jakob von Uexküll & Georg Kriszat (illustrations) 1956 [1934/1940], Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre, Hamburg: Rowohlt.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

First meeting of new Council for animal ethics

Today I have attended the first meeting of Norway´s new Council for Animal Ethics (appointed for a 4 year period, starting now), a full-day meeting. The new council leader is Knut Bøe (NMBU), Kristian Ellingsen remains the council secretary. I represent the animal protection NGOs, with Guri Larsen being deputy representative. The council members are appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Autumn´s 7,5th article writing day

Today I have had the autumn´s 7,5th article writing day, with some 4-5 hours devoted to finishing the book chapter abstract "Wealth and freedom: Beyond planet B" and restarting my work on the journal article "Wasted growth". Some 1.000 words written altogether.

Abstract: "Wealth and freedom: Beyond planet B"

I have just finished the book chapter abstract below, for an invited chapter contribution.


Wealth and freedom: Beyond Planet B
Author: Morten Tønnessen, Professor of philosophy, Department of social studies, University of Stavanger, Norway


The Norwegian philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899–1990), a pioneer in Norwegian eco-philosophy and the conservation movement, can best be characterized as an eco-existentialist. In this chapter I discuss his economic outlook and compare it with philosophical and economic viewpoints of fellow-philosophers Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. His philosophy of technology had a critical favour, and he tended to assess technological innovations in light of how they affected what he called the “brotherhood of suffering”, ranging, according to Zapffe, from the amoeba to the human being. In his view, modern humans faced with existential dilemmas “save themselves” by using four “mechanisms of displacement”, namely isolation or expulsion of disturbing thoughts and emotions, conventional beliefs, distractions, and sublimation. As existentialists in general, he favors the authentic, autonomous life. In the context of nature conservation, Zapffe was outraged by the “vandalism” that takes place in modern society in the name of economic progress, because it destroys nature, but also because it removes possibilities for living a fulfilling, multifaceted life in nature (and where else are we?).
   A bridge between the thinking of Zapffe and that of John Stuart Mill is implied in the question: What sort of economy maximizes freedom, especially with regard to individual life style choices? The liberty to choose how to live one´s life is fundamental to a liberal such as Mill. He emphasizes the utility that human inventions and action patterns should have for us to label them as progressive or sound, and stresses the value for society of allowing a variety of individual lifestyle choices. Like Adam Smith, Zapffe too was concerned about the moral sentiments of people, though he had a bleaker view than Smith on the impact that egoism vs. altruism has on society´s development. Based on the ethical, existential and economical outlooks of Zapffe, Mill and Smith, I will look for commonalities and differences in their views on wealth and freedom. This will result in a liberal eco-philosophical vision of future societies.
   While environmentalists use “There is no planet B” as a slogan, economists and entrepreneurs are apparently not so sure. Once asked how he related to the prospects of human emigration to Mars, Zapffe (or rather his alias) replied: “Sure, and it'll be exciting the first week. Eventually, though, people will start worrying about how much to tax the uranium mines in order to keep the price of margarine down … the whole thing will repeat itself” (p. 57 in Zapffe 1992). The human condition won´t change by expanding the global economy beyond Earth, and if we don´t solve our current challenges here on Earth, it is not likely that we will solve them by settling on Mars, as entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson have suggested. Earth´s resources are limited, as is the current economic mindset with its visions of endless growth. The logical end point for such visions is illustrated by Trantor, the administrative planet in a future galactic empire as portrayed by science fiction author Isaac Asimov in his Foundationnovel series. Trantor, with its planet-spanning indoor environment, is a planet were nature has vanished, to make room for the administration of systematic exploitation of resources elsewhere in the galaxy. On Trantor, “nature” is but a faint memory. Its wealth is impressive, but trantorians´ freedom with regard to lifestyle choices leaves much to desire.

Zapffe, Peter Wessel 1992. Farewell, Norway. Pp. 52–59 in Peter Reed & David Rothenberg (eds.), Wisdom in the Open Air: The Norwegian roots of deep ecology. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press. 

A day full of meetings

Yesterday I attended:
* the weekly leadership group meeting at Faculty of social sciences
* about half an hour of the discussions part of professor emeritus Gunnar Skirbekk´s seminar presentation "Om utfordringar i moderne samfunn", organized by Norwegian School of Hotel Management
* a meeting with the leadership of Museum of Archeology, about our ph.d. program collaboration
* a faculty leadership meeting for Faculty of social sciences (dean, director, vice-deans)

I also met with a bachelor student to discuss possible supervision.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Two meetings and a symposium opening

Today I have taken part, along with Head of Department of social studies, in opening the annual meeting and symposium of the COLAB network, "Collaboration within criminal justice services", a EU Horizon 2020 RISE project which is hosted by the UIS, in my capacity as Vice Dean of Research at Faculty of Social Sciences. I have further attended the first Vice-Dean meeting with the new Vice-Rector of Research (Merete Vadla Madland), with Research Director Troels Gode Jacobsen also attending, and a research report planning meeting with a colleague.