Submit to Biosemiotics?

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

IDEAS, Future of growth

I now have a profile ("file") at IDEAS (Department of Economics, University of Connecticut).

The statistician's guide to Utopia: The future of growth, published in TRAMES in 2008, is now featured on MPRA (abstract, references). The full pdf paper is registered as MPRA paper no. 19644.

MPRA = Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


I have registered at the RePEc author service, which ties economists in to its bibliographical database. All RePEc material (articles, books, work papers etc.) is freely available - not just to registered users.

In the same process, I have registered the University of Tartu Faculty of Philosophy at RePEc - and I am making The statistician's guide to Utopia I: The future of growth available through the Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA) (and in effect EconPapers).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Utopian Realism 2009 - 104 posts in one file

I have compiled (and designed) a pdf-file envoloping all blog posts published in Utopian Realism in 2009 (up to December 20th or so), numbering 104 all in all, over 94 pages.

Besides being available for download online, it appears on 20 copies of a bonus CD accompanying "Kardemomme Tidende" no. 18 (volume 13), December 2009.

Cf. a similar post in my political, Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Phenomenology conferences II

I am about to submit a proposal for a paper for the 60th congress of the The World Institute for Advanced Phenomenological Research (The 60th International Congress of Phenomenology), to be arranged in Bergen, Norway, next August.


Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology

Phenomenology conferences I

My submission to the 8th annual meeting of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology (NOSP) was rejected (the organizers note that they received a large amount of proposals). A pity. It is now uncertain whether or not I will participate.

Bibliographical data for animal play article

Final title: "Abstraction, cruelty and other aspects of animal play (exemplified by the playfulness of Muki and Maluca)"

To be published (available by January) in Sign Systems Studies 37(3/4), 2009, pp. 205-223 (19 pp).

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

January visit to Estonia

I have arranged tickets for visiting Estonia (Tartu) January 24th to 28th (Sunday to Thursday).

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Festschrift contribution submitted

The festschrift contribution of me and Dinda Gorlee, now entitled "Da Lotman og semiotikken kom til Norge" (When Lotman and semiotics came to Norway), has been finished and submitted to the editors.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Play, love etc. - UiA Philosophy Forum in preparation

I have previously mentioned the UiA Philosophy Forum (Filosofisk Forum) - see here, and here. Today the committee of the forum gathered for the second time. We have made a draft of the spring programme, which looks more or less like this:

1) Tuesday, January 19th (16-18)
Morten Tønnessen: "Lek som sivilisasjonens opphav" (Play as the origin of civilization), followed by discussion

2) Tuesday, February 16th (16-18)
To filosofiske samtaler (Two philosophical dialogues)

3) Tuesday, March 16th (18-20)
Filosofisk samtale om tro (Philosophical dialogue on faith), led by Håvard Løkke

4) Tuesday, April 13th (16-18)
Håvard Løkke: Kjærlighet som moralsk følelse (Love as a moral emotion)

5) Tuesday, May 25th (18-20)
Public lecture with invited lecturer, in town. Name and title T.B.A.

In addition, there will be a course session in "philosophical dialogue" (filosofisk samtale) - in preparation of the February dialogue and the public event in March - February 2nd.

While events 1, 2 and 4 are "internal" (university area) events - though open to all - the 3rd and 5th event will take place outside of campus, and aim at engaging a wider audience, in each their way (strictly speaking, this may apply to event 3 more than to event 5, which will nevertheless be made available for a general audience). The methodology for the dialogic events has in the Norwegian context been further developed by amongst others Øyvind Olsholt.

Besides talking at event 1, I will coordinate contacts for event 3, where we hope to gather individuals from different faiths etc. - protestants, catholics, muslims, agnostics and atheists - for a common philosophical dialogue.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Work title: "I, wolf"

The work title for my article-in-progress for the forthcoming anthology Environment, Embodiment and History, edited by Johannes Servan and Ane Faugstad Aarø, is:

I, Wolf:
The Ecology of Experience

Monday, 7 December 2009

Invitation to contribute to book by Nova Publishers

I have received an email from Nova Science Publishers (signed by editor-in-chief Frank Columbus) in which I am invited to contribute to a book entitled "Semiotics: Theory and applications". They previously published 2 issues of "Journal of Biosemiotics".

Friday, 4 December 2009

Expanding horizons: Interdisciplinary integration

Today, at 2-4, I presented "Expanding horizons: Interdisciplinary integration", previously entitled "Methodological challenges in analyzing wolf ecology and wolf management within a semiotic-phenomenological framework" (a 30 min talk, accompanying Timo Maran's "Zoosemiotics: Disciplinary identity and methodological perspectives" (a good overview, with historical perspective)). The occasion was a seminar called "Methodology of the humanities", at University of Tartu (led by Peeter Torop).

Above: Sketch of a global ontological map (humankind in the center).

Lotman piece to be co-written by Dinda L. Gorlée

I have agreed with Dinda L. Gorlée (the Netherlands) that we will cowrite my (now our) aforementioned 2 pp contribution to a Norwegian-Estonian Festschrift, due for next spring. She was a central figure in Norwegian semiotics in the mid-1980s - the only time (so far) semiotics has flourished much in Norway.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology, 2010

I have submitted the following...

Contribution to the 8th annual conference of
(Nordisk Selskab for Fænomenologi)
under the general theme
to be arranged at Södertörn University College
in Stockholm, April 22-24, 2010
Individual presentation
by Morten Tønnessen
Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu
Vindmøllegangen 1, 4631 Kristiansand, NORWAY
Kuu 39-64, 50 104 Tartu, ESTONIA
Academic homepage:
Suggested title:
Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology
German-Baltic biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) did not regard himself as a phenomenologist. Neither did he conceive of himself as a semiotician. Nevertheless, his Umwelt terminology has of late been utilized and further developed within the framework of semiotics and various other disciplines - and, as I will argue, essential points in his work can fruitfully be taken to represent a distinctive Uexküllian phenomenology, characterized not least by an assumption of the (in the realm of life) universal existence of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds.

In the course of the presentation, I will briefly relate Uexküllian phenomenology to
a) Immanuel Kant (1724-1804),
b) the eco-existentialism of Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899-1990)
c) eco-phenomenology (including David Abram and Ted Toadvine),
d) and semiotics of nature (biosemiotics, ecosemiotics, zoosemiotics)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Contribution on Lotman to Norwegian-Estonian Festschrift

I have agreed to contribute with a short (2 pp) article to the planned Festschrift of the Norwegian-Estonian Association (Norsk-Estisk Forening), at the occasion of its 25 year anniversary. My article will be written in Norwegian, and deal with the (pretty recent) history of Tartu semiotics, with special emphasis on Juri Lotman and his connection to Norway (not least the 1986 conference in Bergen, where - for the first and last time - Thomas Sebeok met Juri Lotman).

This short article should be finished by December 20th. The Festschrift will be published in 2010, at the occasion of the independence day of the Republic of Estonia (February 24th).

New colleagues

Two more researchers have joined the research project "The Cultural Heritage of Environmental Spaces. A Comparative Analysis Between Estonia and Norway" (the first replacing Peder Anker as the Norwegian collaborator in a study of Estonian peat bogs etc.), in which I take part with my Ph.D. work as a "main researcher". First, Finn Arne Jørgensen, NTNU, who's involved in environmental history (and trying to establish a Norwegian network within that field). I met him at the first world congress of environmental history in Copenhagen in August. Second, Renata Sõukand - who happens to be one of the contributors to the special issue of Biosemiotics for which I am one of two guest-editors ('Semiotics of perception').

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Titles - books I would like to have written (or read)

Some of these are good titles (others contain but one word of special interest). Others are good, or reputed, authors, or concern topics that interest me. Most of them will never be read by me. Some, perhaps, will – maybe even be influential in my thinking. Time will (perhaps) tell.

Ahonen, Pertti. 1989. The meaning of money: Comparing a Peircean and Saussurean perspective. In Kevelson, R., ed., 13-29.

Albone, Eric S. 1984. Mammalian Semiochemistry. Chichester: Wiley.

Anderson, Myrdene & Floyd Merrell, eds. 1991. On Semiotic Modeling. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Aschenberg, Heidi. 1978. Phänomenologische Philosophie und Sprache. Tübingen: Narr.

Balat, Michel & Janice Deledalle-Rhodes, eds. 1992. Signs of Humanity. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Bär, Eugen 1981. Die Zeichenlehre von Thomas A. Sebeok. In Krampen, M., et al., eds., 281-321.

Barnlund, Dean 1981. Toward an ecology of communication. In Mott, C. W. & J. H. Weakland, eds., 87-126.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1972. Pour une critique de l’économie politique du signe. Paris: Gallimard. – Port. s.d. Para uma crítica da economia política do signo. Lisboa: Martins Fontes.

———. 1976. L’échange symbolique et la mort. Paris: Gallimard.

Beck, Cave. 1657. The Universal Character, by Which All the Nations in the World May Understand One Another’s Conceptions. London.

Bentley, Arthur F. 1947. The new “semiotic”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8.1: 107-31.

Bernard-Donals, Michael F. 1994. Mikhail Bakhtin Between Phenomenology and Marxism. Cambridge: Univ. Press.

Bierman, Arthur K. 1962. That there are no iconic signs. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23: 243-49.

Bonner, John Tyler. 1980. The Evolution of Culture in Animals. Princeton: Univ. Press.

Borsche, Tilman & Werner Stegmaier, eds. 1992. Zur Philosophie des Zeichens. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Böttner, Margueritte. 1980. Zeichensysteme der Tiere: Ein Versuch angewandter Semiotik. Stuttgart: Diss. Phil.

Bouissac, Paul. 1989. What is a human? Ecological semiotics and the new animism. Semiotica 77: 497-516.

Bright, Michael. 1984. Animal Language. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press.

Brown, Jerram L. & Gordon H. Orians. 1970. Spacing patterns in mobile animals. Annual Review of Ecological Systems 1: 239-62.

Buczyńska-Garewicz, Hanna. 1984. The degenerate sign. In Borbé, T., ed., vol. 1, 43-50.

Bunn, James H. 1981. The Dimensionality of Signs, Tools, and Models. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

Burkhardt, Dietrich, et al., eds. 1966. Signale der Tierwelt. München: Moos.

Busnel, René-Guy & André Classe. 1976. Whistled Languages. Berlin: Springer.

Carnap, Rudolf. (1928) 1961. Der logische Aufbau der Welt. Hamburg: Meiner.

Carterette, Edward C. & Morton P. Friedman, eds. 1976. Handbook of Perception. New York: Academic Press.

Castañeda, Hector-Neri. 1990. Indicators: The semiotics of experience. In Jacobi, K. & H. Pape, 57-93.

Cheney, Dorothy & Robert M. Seyfarth. 1982. Recognition of individuals within and between groups of free-ranging vervet monkeys. American Zoologist 22: 519-529.

Classen, Constance, David Howes & Anthony Synnott. 1994. Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. London: Routledge.

Coker, Wilson. 1972. Music and Meaning. New York: Free Press.

Colapietro, Vincent M. 1989. Peirce’s Approach to the Self. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

Costadeau, Alphonse. (1717) 1983. Traité des signes, vol. 1, ed. Le Guern-Forel, O. Bern: Lang.

Crystal, David 1980. Introduction to Language Pathology. London: Arnold.

Dascal, Marcelo. 1978. La sémiologie de Leibniz. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne.

Davidson, Donald 1978. What metaphors mean. Critical Inquiry 5: 31-47.

Dawkins, Richard & John R. Krebs. 1978. Animal signals: Information or manipulation. In Krebs, J. R. & N. B. Davies, eds., 282-309.

Deely, John N. 1974. The two approaches to language... Jean Poinsot’s semiotic. The Thomist 38: 856-907.

Dirven, René. 1993. Metonymy and metaphor. Leuvense Bijdragen 82: 1-28.

Dressler, Wolfgang U. 1989. Semiotische Parameter einer textlinguistischen Natürlichkeitstheorie. Wien: Österr. Akad. der Wiss. (=Ö. A. d. W., Phil.-Hist. Kl., Sitzungsber., vol. 529).

Dutz, Klaus D. 1985. Historiographia Semioticae (= papmaks 18). Münster: MAkS.

Ebert, Theodor. 1987. The origin of the Stoic theory of signs in Sextus Empiricus. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 5: 83-126.

Eco, Umberto 1984b. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

———. 1985a. How culture conditions the colors we see. In Blonsky, M., ed., 157-75.

———. 1986. Travels in Hyperreality. New York: Harcourt.

Eimermacher, Karl, comp. 1974. Arbeiten sowjetischer Semiotiker der Moskauer und Tartuer Schule (Auswahlbibliographie). Kronberg: Scriptor.

Ekman, Paul, ed. 1973. Darwin and Facial Expression. New York: Academic Press.

Emanuele, Pietro. 1982. Präsemiotik und Semiotik in Heidegger. Semiosis 25/26: 140-44.

Fill, Alwin. 1993. Ökolinguistik. Tübingen: Narr.

Finlay, Marike. 1988. The Romantic Irony of Semiotics: Friedrich Schlegel and the Crisis of Representation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Fleischer, Michael. 1987. Hund und Mensch: Eine semiotische Analyse ihrer Kommunikation. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

Fraasen, Bas C. van. 1985. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Time and Space. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Garvin, Harry R., ed. 1976. Phenomenology, Structuralism, Semiology (= Bucknell Review, April 1976). Lewisburg: Bucknell Univ. Press.

Gibson, James J. 1966. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems. Boston: Mifflin.

———. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Mifflin.

Glidden, David. 1983. Skeptic semiotics. Phronesis 28: 213-55.

Harrison, P. A. 1983. Behaving Brazilian: A Comparison of Brazilian and North Anmerican Social Behavior. Rowley: Newbury House.

Havelock, Eric A. 1963. Preface to Plato. Oxford: Blackwell.

Holenstein, Elmar. 1975. Roman Jakobsons phänomenologischer Strukturalismus. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp. – Port. 1978. Introdução ao pensamento de Roman Jakobson. Rio de Janeiro: J. Zahar.

Jones, Roger S. 1982. Physics as Metaphor. New York: Meridian.

Kalinowski, Georges. 1985. Sémiotique et philosophie. Paris, Amsterdam: Hadès-Benjamins.

Katz, David. (1925) 1969. Der Aufbau der Tastwelt. Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchgesellschaft.

Kelemen, János 1991. Kant’s semiotics. In Sebeok, T. A. & J. Umiker-Sebeok, eds., 201-18.

Kiefer, Georg R. 1970. Zur Semiotisierung der Umwelt. Stuttgart: Diss. Phil.

Klaus, Georg. (1963) 1973. Semiotik und Erkenntnistheorie. München: Fink:

Klinck, Dennis. 1993. The semiotics of money. In Kevelson, R., ed., 229-250.

Koch, Walter A. 1986c. Philosophie der Philologie und Semiotik. Literatur und Welt: Versuche zur Interdisziplinarität der Philologie. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

———. 1989. The Well of Tears: A Biosemiotic Essay on the Roots of Horror, Comic, and Pathos. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

———. 1991b. Language in the Upper Pleistocene. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

———. 1992. Ecogenesis und echogenesis. In Sebeok, T. A. & J. Umiker-Sebeok, eds., 171-211.

Koch, Walter A., ed. 1982. Semiogenesis. Frankfurt/Main: Lang.

———. 1990d. Semiotics in the Individual Sciences. 2 vols. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

———. 1990f. Wissenschaftstheorie und Semiotik. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

Komar, Gerhard 1991. Geldzeichen. Zeitschrift für Semiotik 13: 345-365.

Krampen, Martin, et al., eds. 1981. Die Welt als Zeichen: Klassiker der modernen Semiotik. Berlin: Severin & Siedler.

Kruse, Felicia 1990. Nature and semiosis. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 26.2: 211-224.

Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Lanigan, Richard L. 1977. Speech Act Phenomenology. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Larsen, Hanne Hartvig, et al., eds. 1991. Marketing and Semiotics. Copenhagen: Handelshøjskolen Forlag.

Lewis, Philip E. 1974. Revolutionary semiotics. Diacritics 4 (Fall): 28-32.

Lindgren, J. Ralph. 1993. The emergence of signs: The seminal convention of money. In Kevelson, R., ed., 283-297.

Manning, Peter K. 1987. Semiotics and Fieldwork. Newbury Park: Sage.

Meier-Oeser, Stephan 1997a. Die Spur des Zeichens: Das Zeichen und seine Funktion in der Philosophie des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Merrell, Floyd 1996. Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes. Toronto: Univ. Press.

Mick, David G. 1999. A global review of semiotic consumer research (= Working Paper, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Business).

Montagu, Ashley. 1971. Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Oehler, Klaus, ed. 1984. Zeichen und Realität. 3 vols. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

Pittenger, Robert E., Charles F. Hockett & John J. Danehy. 1960. The First Five Minutes. Ithaca, N.Y.: P. Martineau.

Pogorzelski, H. A. & W. J. Ryan. 1982. Foundations of Semiological Theory of Numbers. Orono: Univ. of Maine Press.

Presnell, Michael. 1983. Sign, Image, and Desire: Semiotic Phenomenology and the Film Image. Ann Arbor: Univ. Microfilms Int.

Preziosi, Donald. 1979b. The Semiotics of the Built Environment. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

Reis, Carlos. 1993. Towards a Semiotics of Ideology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Romeo, Luigi. 1979d. Ecce Homo: A Lexicon of Man. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Rosenthal, Sandra B. 1998. Phenomenological semiotics. In Posner, R., et al., eds., vol. 2, 2096-2112.

Salthe, Stanley. 1998. Naturalizing semiotics. Semiotica 120: 381-394.

Santaella, Lucia. 1996c. Semiosphere: The growth of signs. Semiotica 109: 173-186.

Schiff, William & Emerson Foulke, eds. 1982. Tactual Perception: A Sourcebook. Cambridge: Univ. Press.

Simmel, Georg. (1900) 1922. Philosophie des Geldes. München: Duncker & Humblot.

Tembrock, Günter. 1971. Biokommunikation. 2 vols. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Thom, René. (1988) 1990. Esquisse d’une sémiophysique. – Ingl. 1990. Semiophysics: A Sketch. Redwood City, Cal.: Addision-Wesley.

Thompson, Michael. 1979. Rubbish Theory. Oxford: Univ. Press.

Trampe, Wilhelm. 1990. Ökologische Linguistik. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Trevarthen, Colwyn. 1994. Infant semiosis. In Nöth, W., ed., 219-252.

Valsiner, Jaan & Jüri Allik. 1982. General semiotic capabilities of the higher primates. In Key, M. R., ed., 245-57.

Vincent Ferrer. (ca. 1400) 1977. Tractatus de suppositionibus. Ed. Trentman, J. A. Stuttgart: Frommann.

Walther, Fritz R. 1984. Communication and Expression in Hooved Mammals. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

Wescott, Roger W. 1984. Semiogenesis and paleogenesis. Semiotica 48: 181-85.

Yaguello, Marina. 1991. Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages and their Inventors. London: Athlone.

Zarcadoolas, Christina. 1983. How to Do Things with Linguistics, Semiotics, Speech Acts, and Phenomenology. Ph. D. Thesis, Brown Univ. Ann Arbor: Univ. Microfilms Int.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Course work on Uexküll - meetings at UiA - the philosophy business

I'm following the course "Readings of Juri Lotman and Jakob von Uexküll", and the first half, considering the work of Uexküll, has now finished. A couple of days ago I submitted the (first) term paper, "An Uexküllian Theory of Evolution?" (7 pp). I have further - since I literarily take the course as a reading course, from a distance - submitted 6 c3 pp papers with Q&As, covering the reading material.
“Uexküll and evolution” for many sounds like a topic that spells out a contradiction in terms. That, I believe, does not necessarily have to be the case. Whereas some biosemioticians (e.g. Stjernfelt 2001) have asserted that Uexküll was anti-evolution, others (e.g. Salthe 2001; Kull 2004) have concluded that he was anti-Darwinian, but not hostile to the idea of evolution as such. Here I must agree with the latter group, as I hope will shine through in the rest of this exposition. And not only do I think Uexküll was not anti-evolution (though, as I explain in Tønnessen 2009, he was programmatically not historically-minded) – more than that; I believe that an Uexküllian perspective might actually prove to be enriching within the field of evolutionary theory. There’s proof that Uexküll did not only have negative, but also positive, thought about evolution in his dictum (1928: 198) that “each new appearing functional cycle verifies [the appearance of] a new animal species” (my translation).
Meanwhile, the committee for the UiA Philosophy Forum has held its first meeting (this Monday).

So has - today - UiA's "Fagfilosofisk seksjon" (Academic philosophical section), consisting of the philosophers at Department of religion, philosophy and history. The topic, which has been discussed at one previous meeting as well and will be discussed further at the institute level in December, concerns establishing new (more advanced) courses in philosophy as part of a revised bachelor degree (which is today a bachelor in religion). One day, some say, we might offer a master in philosophy. That would truly be of great value for the philosophy milieu at UiA, and its attraction for students and scholars alike. Today only a one-year studium is offered (apart from the broader introductory course, Examen Philosophicum).

Meanwhile ... I have finished (yesterday) a catalogue, or leaflet (4 pp), presenting the paid services offered by my one-man company, SPØR FILOSOFEN (Ask the philosopher) - ranging from lectures and courses via writing and editing to consultancy activities. You'll find it on Scribd.

And thus the world advances...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Committee for UiA Philosophy Forum

The committee for the University of Agder Philosophy Forum (styringsgruppa for Filosofisk Forum) now seems to be in place, counting the following members:
Håvard Løkke
Olav Andreas Opedal
Hege Stensland
Morten Tønnessen
Ralph Henk Vaags
The first meeting of the committee is likely to be arranged this Monday. The first Forum in this round will likely take place in January.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Philosophy in Stavanger (siddisfilosofi)

This term - starting November 27th or so - I will take part in the marking at Examen Philosophicum at the University of Stavanger (the university of the town where I was born, on the West coast of Norway), as an external examiner. Written exam is the genre, 3,000 words the approximate length of the apparently 160 exam papers.

I am thus for the moment connected to no less than three universities - University of Stavanger (as an external examiner), University of Agder (as a lecturer, research assistant, and involved in philosophy forums) and University of Tartu (as a Ph.D. student, and participant in research projects etc.).

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Philosophy in Kristiansand

Today I met with Ralph Henk Vaags at UiA. We have agreed to restart 'Filosofisk fagforum' [Forum for academic philosophy], as well as 'Filosofisk forskerforum' [Philosophical research forum] at the University of Agder (in both cases it's the first time I'm partaking). For now the plan for the former is to arrange monthly 2-hrs seminars next spring. The two of us expect to form the responsible committee, along with a student representative.

Independently of these activities, the town of Kristiansand also features a near-monthly 'philosophical café', Kristiansand Filosofikafé, dating back to 2001.

Not bad for a mid-size Norwegian town whose biggest celebrity is a chimpanzee called Julius (who happens to be one of the town's best painters, as well).

"An ageing giant" - Arne Næss in memory

I have just come across the newsletter wherein my brief text "An ageing giant" appears (p13).

Volume 20, No. 2 Spring/Summer 2009
Morten Tønnessen, Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu, Estonia:
An Ageing Giant
It is hard to summarize what Arne Næss has meant to me—first of all because he has been so decisive in forming me as a practicing philosopher. For years I had difficulties seeing where, at all, I would disagree with him (a problem I have now to some extent overcome). I was early on inspired by his interpretation of Gandhi’s political ethics—that’s how I made the leap from activist to student of philosophy. As is the case for so many Norwegians, it was his work that introduced me to philosophy. A course in deep ecology at Åkerøya in Norway in the late 1990s was central in giving me a more solid basis for eco-philosophical reasoning (a couple years later Knut Olav Fossestøl, another course participant, and I founded the “Eco-philosophical colloquium” at the University of Oslo). By then Arne was already a familiar face for me as a philosophy student—30 years after he retired as professor, he was still around offering public lectures. In 2001 and 2003, I arranged public events with him myself. By 2003, however, it was clear that this brilliant mind struggled to remain intellectually alert and coherent. A request to partake in a proposal (concerning the Norwegian Petro-fund) from the Green Party of Norway, for which I was the national secretary at the time, was therefore revoked.

I interviewed him a couple of times. After the Åkerøya seminar I sent him my first booklong philosophical manuscript, Dialog. He had agreed to comment it, but now I got it returned, with an exact explanation: “372 pages!” I never knew whether to call him Arne or Næss. Despite having met him around a dozen times, he never appeared—with certainty—to recognize me (I wish he had). Today I have the fortune of being in contact with some of his closest colleagues at the eco-scene. The last time I was in contact with him (through Kit-Fai) was in 2006, when I was conducting a survey of attitudes in the Norwegian environmentalist establishment—partly inspired by his own little survey on attitudes to nature among Norwegian bureaucrats and others carried out a generation or so earlier. As I heard the news of his death, I pondered home to our house in Magé, Brazil, where we were at the time, and stepped into our outdoor swimming pool, as the day darkened. A couple of bats joined me. I retreated to a corner, offering the two nocturnal creatures (ecological!) space enough to rejoice undisturbed in their playful bath.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The wolf as scapegoat

My debate article "Ulven som syndebukk" [The wolf as scapegoat] is in print today in the major Norwegian national daily Dagbladet.

A longer Norwegian version of the text is to be found in my Norwegian blog, Utopisk Realisme.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Co-editing of special issue on biosemiotics

Yesterday I agreed to co-edit a special issue of Hortus Semioticus on biosemiotics (zoosemiotics etc. included) with Nelly Mäekivi and Riin Magnus.

The special issue, which will feature articles in both English and Estonian and is expected to appear as no. 7, 2010 (after no. 5 is published this year and no. 6 is published as a regular number in the spring of 2010), will include an interview with Kalevi Kull (link inactive at the time of writing this...), conducted by Riin Magnus and me.

First semioethics interview published + "Meditationes Semioticae"

Hortus Semioticus no. 4 (2009) appeared some days ago. My contributions:

Pp57-80 "“Tell me, where is morality bred?” The Semioethics Interviews I: John Deely" PDF here

Pp81-84: "Meditationes Semioticae: Signs grow – but should they? Semioethics and the dominant semiosis of Homo sapiens sapiens" PDF here

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Proceedings of the world congress in semiotics 2007

At long last I have received the proceedings of the 9th congress of the IASS/AIS - Helsinki-Imatra, 11-17 June, 2007, "Communication: Understanding/Misunderstanding", edited by Eero Tarasti (associated editors: Paul Forsell and Richard Littlefield). And quite a work it is, in 3 volumes (Acta Semiotica Fennica XXXIV, International Semiotics Institute, Imatra/Semiotic Society of Finland, Helsinki 2009).

My text "Where I end and you begin: The threshold of the self and the intrinsic value of the phenomenal world" appears pp. 1798-1803 (vol. III). Here, for the first time in Earth history (in print), I offer "a critique of a critique", namely of semioethics: "While I agree with several of the foundational statements of a semioethics proper, i have some critical remarks as to its present manifestation." I have now been engaged with semioethics for 2 years plus, not least through this spring's first "semioethics interviews" with John Deely, the first of which will sooner-than-ever be published. The article also contains seeds to what I now call "semiotic economy".

In the article I refer to:
David Agler
Gregory Bateson
Donald Favareau
Arne Næss
Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio
David Rothenberg
and myself ("Umwelt ethics")

The name of my article appears in the Contents (vol. I, p. xx). I ("Tonnesen") is further referred to in the Thematic index (vol. III) under the keywords "biosemiotics" (p. 1971) - but not under "ethics", nor "politics", nor "semioethics".

Poster presentation presentation

My poster "Mapping human impact: Ecological footprint vs. ontological niche" is on display at the second CECT autumn conference, "Spatiality, memory and visualisation of culture/nature relationships", tomorrow from 4 to 6 p.m. The 5 minute oral presentation of my poster presentation has been scheduled for 17.00-17.05. Full poster programme here.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Last week I submitted my contribution to the 10th world congress in semiotics proceedings, "The changing imagery of the big bad wolf".

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Animal play article to appear in December

I expect my article "Abstraction, cruelty and other aspects of animal play" to appear in December, in the special issue on zoosemiotics of the journal Sign Systems Studies.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Mapping human impact

My poster presentation for the Oct. 22-24 Tallinn conference on Spatiality, memory and visualization of human/nature relations (text only):

Morten Tønnessen: Mapping Human Impact

Ecological Footprint


Ontological Niche

In this presentation I compare my ecosemiotic concept of a human ontological niche (cf. Tønnessen 2009) with the concept of an ecological footprint, with respect to how either of these can be applied as tools in mapping human impact in nature. An ontological niche – a concept derived from Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt concept – can be defined as the set (or whole) of ecological relations (or ‘contrapuntal relations’, be they somatic, social or ecological) a being or life form partakes in at a certain point in natural history (figure: early version (1920) of Uexküll’s functional cycle).


The ecological footprint concept, on its hand, first introduced in 1996, is now being used by WWF (Living Planet Report) and developed methodologically by the Global Footprint Network. Claimed to be a tool that makes sustainability measurable, it condenses a complex array of consumption down into a single number.

The developers of the ecological footprint model stress that it includes only those aspects of resource consumption and waste production for which the Earth has regenerative capacity. What it does is converting consumption into the land used in production, along with the land theoretically needed to sequester the greenhouse gases produced. By dividing ‘Humanity’s Ecological Footprint’ (currently 2,7 ‘global hectares’ per person) by ‘World Biocapacity’ – which is (oftentimes) modelled as being constant – we arrive at the conclusion that humanity as a whole has been unsustainable (accumulating ‘ecological debt’) since the late 80s. When the footprint of a country does not surpass its biocapacity, it is said to be sustainable.


As we can see in the WWF figures below, global biocapacity is modelled as being potentially decreasing (in case of sustained/accumulated ecological overshoot) or increasing (in case of proper management).



The ecological footprint model has several limitations, not least the fact that there are many environmental problems it cannot represent. It further says little or nothing about the intensity of land use. From an ethical point of view, it is biased toward anthropocentricism in assuming that ‘sustainability’ entails that humanity can exploit the Earth’s biocapacity fully. It is also anthropocentric from a methodological point of view, since it represents human consumption and ecosystem services only – both being purely human interests.

The human ontological niche concept, in contrast, is designed in order to display the ecological relations in which humanity partakes. As Nathan Fiala (2008: 519) remarks, “better measures of sustainability would address [environmental issues] directly”. Whereas the simplicity of the ecological footprint is not only its greatest advantage but also its greatest disadvantage, the human ontological niche concept is better suited to account for variety within and across ecosystems, because its biggest advantage is its (qualitative, rather than quantitative) specificity. It further allows for disparate ethical assumptions.

I will now model selected global environmental data to demonstrate how the human ontological niche concept can be applied as a modelling tool scrutinizing human impact in nature. The basic problem is this: How can we model human impact in nature – a crude, aggregate measure – based on a theory of the phenomenological experiences of individual creatures (be they human or non-human)?


Above the global populations of selected livestock groups are represented in numerical terms (data taken from Livestock’s long shadow, FAO 2006). How could we represent these global data in qualitative terms?


Here a few differences in the size of circles (3 categories) and thickness (3 categories) are chosen to represent the relative importance of livestock groups and the character of our relations to them. In more general terms some crucial traditional features of the human ontological niche can be represented as depicted below (note that a positive attitude to conservation can change the quality of our relation to big carnivores as well as to “wasteland” species).


A few simple comments:

Resources/individuals: While an ecological footprint approach tends to focus on biomass (natural creatures qua resources), an ontological niche approach will tend to focus on individuals/subjects, wherever there are individuals.

Relative/Absolute: From a phenomenological point of view everything is relative to the subjects. But absolute numbers (i.e. the totals relative to the entire Earth system) matter too.

Qualitative/quantitative: Quantitative data must be analyzed in qualitative (oversight) terms. But qualities alone tell as little about a concrete empirical situation as quantities alone. Volume matters – and so does the quality (nature) of our ecological relations!

Simplifying/re-presenting complexity: All modelling entails simplification. What is decisive is that qualitative analysis at all steps is to guide quantitative representations, and that alienating decontextualization is to be avoided.


Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. FAO 2006.

Living Planet Report 2008. WWF.

Fiala, Nathan 2008. Measuring sustain-ability: Why the ecological footprint is bad economics and bad environmental science. Ecological Economics 67: 519-525.

Tønnessen, Morten 2009. Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change. Biosemiotics 2.1: 47-64.

Uexküll, Jakob von 1920. Theoretische Biologie (first edition). Berlin: Julius Springer.

This poster presentation has been carried out as part of the research projects The Cultural Heritage of Environmental Spaces: A Comparative Analysis between Estonia and Norway (EEA–ETF Grant EMP 54), Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations (ETF/ESF 7790) and Methods of Biosemiotics (ETF/ESF 6669).