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Monday, 23 December 2013

Reference for ""Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory""

Today, via Springer alerts, I was notified of the pagination of ""Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory", which I have co-written with Jonathan Beever as a framing essay for the Uexküll translation "Darwin and the English morality" (see below). Reference: 
Beever, Jonathan and Morten Tønnessen. “Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory. Biosemiotics 6(3): 437-447 (online version published September 25 2013, DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9180-x).
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Employment contract (researcher) signed and posted

A couple of days ago I received the employment contract from the University of Stavanger in relation to my involvement as a researcher in the Norwegian-Estonian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) (hosted by Department of health studies). Today I signed and posted it. The contract, which is my fourth (I think) consecutive contract at UiS, and which partly overlaps with the second half of the third (25%, Spring 2014), implies that I will be employed in a 10% position from March 15th 2014 to April 30th 2016.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The process towards the 12th world congress of semiotics

The organisers of the 12th world congress of semiotics, which will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, September 16-20th 2014, have chosen an unconventional approach to abstract submission - see the call for papers. Now and for some two further months there are discussions on possible topics on social media including Facebook. This is where I first proposed having a session on biosemiotic ethics (see below). The deadline for ordinary abstract submission to the organisers is June 30th 2014, but it is also possible to contact chairs of prospective sessions - including me - directly, well ahead of that. And there is some additional wiggle room too (see the call for papers).

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Session at 12th world congress of semiotics: "Biosemiotic ethics"

A week ago or so I composed an abstract for what will be either a roundtable or a study session at the forthcoming 12th world congress of semiotics, which will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria September 16-20th 2014. Individual abstracts can be sent straight to me - see address below. This session abstract has been posted on the webpage of the world congress, in the Biosemiosis blog, and on my page.
Biosemiotic ethics
Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger, Norway ( 
A dozen to 20 years ago, two of the most central biosemioticians, first Jesper Hoffmeyer and then Kalevi Kull, addressed connections between biosemiotics and ethics. The last ten years a new generation of scholars have started working out a biosemiotic ethics. The foundational idea is that if all living systems are semiotic, then biosemiosis can serve as basis for justifying attribution of moral status to human and non-human individuals and to various ecological entities. Most of the scholars involved in this endeavor have taken Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory as their starting point. Recent relevant publications include a translation of Uexküll’s 1917 article “Darwin and the English Morality”, with a framing essay entitled ““Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory”. 
Relevant questions for discussion include but are not limited to the following: 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? 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?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

4th NASS newsletter composed, distributed

Some seven weeks ago I composed (with co-editor Inesa Sahakyan) the 4th newsletter of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) - 21 pp. The PDF newsletter, which is also posted online, was distributed by email a few days later.

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Listed, cited in Seip family book

My mother's family is the Seip family. This year the 3rd edition of the family book, with biographical information, has been published - I just got my copy. The 2nd version, edited by Ellen Bonnevie Seip, was published in 1986 (first time I, born 1976, was mentioned), the 1st version, edited by Didrik Arup Seip, in 1927.

In the 3rd edition I am listed, along with my wife and son, p. 61-62. Furthermore, on p. 56 there is a quotation from my biography about my grandfather:
Tønnessen, Morten 2008: Tidsvitne: Jens L. Seips livshistorie fortalt til Morten Tønnessen [Time witness: The life story of Jens L. Seip told to Morten Tønnessen]. Produced and distributed by Kolofon forlag, Oslo. 252 pp.
Reference to the family book:
Seip, Knut Lehre, Hans Martin Seip and Julie Cranner Seip (eds) 2013: Slekten Seip – med biografiske opplysninger (3rd edition) [The Seip family – with biographical information]. Oslo 2013.

Friday, 20 December 2013

EMP151: First Norwegian research seminar held - talk on wolf symbolicity given

Friday last week I organised 1st Norwegian research seminar of the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (Stavanger, Norway - December 13th 2013), and presented my paper “The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Scandinavia”. 10 people attended (parts of) the event, which had been advertised in Morgenbladet and Stavanger Aftenblad.

The first half of the day, which was open to anyone interested, was followed by a 4-hour meeting involving the three researchers present (Kristin Armstrong Oma, Timo Maran and myself), and dinner.

No from Idélab

Today I was notified that I am not invited to the Research Council of Norway's Idélab.

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Reference for "Darwin and the English Morality"

A few days ago I was notified about the pagination etc. of "Darwin and the English Morality", a 1917 essay by Jakob von Uexküll which I have translated to English. The essay will appear in print in the December 2013 issue of Biosemiotics. Full reference:
von Uexküll, Jakob 2013 [1917]. Darwin and the English Morality. Translation of "Darwin und die englische Moral", Deutsche Rundschau 173: 215-242. Translation by Morten Tønnessen, English language editing by Jonathan Beever. Biosemiotics 6(3): 449-471 (online version published November 21 2013, DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9182-8).

Minding Animals International: New website

Due to a hacking incident, Minding Animals International has a new webpage, with the address ( now redirects there).

The new website includes an overview of national groups (with Minding Animals Norway as one of three incorporated national groups), and a subpage presenting MAI's Board of Directors, where I am listed as a "non-board committee member", in my capacity as MAI Europe and Africa National Groups Convenor:
Morten is Associate Professor at University of Stavanger’s Department of Health Studies. He convenes the most successful MA national group (Norge) to date, and is one of two National Group Convenors (for Europe and Africa). For more information, see: 

3rd newsletter of Minding Animals Norway finished and distributed

Today I finished composing the 3rd newsletter of Minding Animals Norway (4pp), and distributed it via email to MAN's 40+ members.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Research seminar on wolves, jackals and domesticated animals in UiS calendar

The 1st Norwegian research seminar of the Norwegian-Estonian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151), which will take place this Friday, has some time ago (in the middle of November or so) been included in the calendar of University of Stavanger - see here.

Post in Minding Animals blog about UiS seminar

A couple of weeks ago I posted "UiS-seminar om ulv, sjakal og husdyr" [University of Stavanger seminar on wolves, jackals and domesticated animals] in the blog of Minding Animals Norway. The blog post envelops the program for this seminar, which will take place this Friday, and related information.

14 letters explaining grading written

Recently I've written 14 explanations of grading (begrunnelser for karaktersetting), in relation to my role as teacher and examiner in the introductory philosophy course in Department of health studies' bachelor in nursing. These will be sent by post as 14 letters this Friday.

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"Plans for field work" paper presented; ecosemiotics seminar attended

On November 29th in Tartu, Estonia I presented my paper “Plans for field work on predator-prey conflicts in Norway involving video-recorded interviews followed by pico-scale analysis” (see abstract) on the second day of the Seminar on methodology of ecosemiotics (November 28-29). There were 20+ present.

The research seminar also featured interesting discussions on the fundamentals of ecosemiotics.

First meeting of EMP151 Steering Committee

On November 29th, in Tartu, Estonia, the Steering Committee of the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) held its first meeting. The Steering Committee's members are Timo Maran, who leads the project, and myself as the Norwegian project leader. According to the Partnership Agreement between University of Tartu and University of Stavanger, the Steering Committee must meet at least every six months.

Joining the editorial advisory board of the journal Politics and animals

A couple of days ago I was invited to join the Editorial advisory board of the academic journal Politics and animals, which will be an open-access journal publishing 2 issues per year. I have accepted.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Two more members of parliament respond to chronicle on petroleum research

In today's Aftenposten (Norway's biggest daily), members of parliament (the Conservatives) Siri A. Meling and Kristin Vinje responds to my chronicle "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?], which was published Monday December 2nd, with a Letter to the editor entitled «Uten petroleumsforskning stopper Norge» [Without petroleum research, Norway stops]. The two parliamentarians claim that petroleum research is not problematic in ethical terms, and that the petroleum sector benefits both the poor and the (Norwegian) rich. 

"Umwelt trajectories" proof-read, to be published early 2014

This weekend I proof-read my article "Umwelt trajectories", which will be published in Semiotica no. 1/2014 (issue 198), pp. 159 – 180.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Idélab received 155 applications, decision to be made by 20/12

The Research Council of Norway reports in today's newsletter that they have received 155 applications to their Idélab scheme. 25-30 participants will be selected by December 20th.

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On student radio discussing petroleum research with student leader

Wednesday this week, following my chronicle in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?], I was interviewed by Radio Nova, Oslo's student radio. More specifically, I discussed the student organisation's (Studentparlamentets) views on petroleum research conducted by the University of Oslo with Gabrielle Legrand Gjerdset, the head of UiO's student organisation. The interview and/or debate featured in the program "Emneknaggen", a debate program hosted by Adrian Nyhammer Olsen.

Podcasts are available here - including the segment I was involved in: "Studentparlamentet i Oslo får kritikk fra høyere hold grunnet uambisøs holdning til petroleumsforskning" [The student parliament in Oslo is criticised /from someone highly positioned/ for unambitious attitude to petroleum research].

Member of parliament (Green Party) responds to chronicle on petroleum research

In a letter to the editor entitled "Kunnskap for fremtidens Norge" [Knowledge for the future Norway], Rasmus Hansson, a member of parliament representing the Green Party of Norway, refers to my chronicle "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?], which was published in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten Monday this week. Hansson writes that the Green Party in their alternative government budget proposes to increase research supporting green reorganization of society, including renewable energy, and to reduce petroleum investments, research and subsidies.

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Friday, 6 December 2013

Meeting on Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2014

November 26th I took part in a telephone meeting concerning Dyreetikkonferansen [the Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference] 2014, which will be the third conference in this series. More details to follow.

Chronicle on petroleum research linked to by student NGO, tweeted about by environmental NGOs and research ethics committees

My chronicle  "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?], which was published earlier this week, was linked to by, the webpage of Norsk studentorganisasjon [Norwegian student organization], in their "NSO i media" [NSO in the media] section. They included the full text, and the chronicle in facsimile (see here).

The publication of the chronicle was further tweeted about by half a dozen people, including representatives of the NGOs Concerned Scientists Norway and Framtiden i Våre Hender [The future in our hands], plus by the National Committies for Research Ethics in Norway.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Chronicle on Norwegian universities' petroleum research in Aftenposten

This Monday, signing as Associate professor at University of Stavanger, I had a chronicle published in Aftenposten, Norway's biggest daily, entitled "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?]. The original text of the chronicle, which I had named "Universitetenes petroleumsforskning og fremtiden" [The universities' petroleum research and the future], has just now been posted in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Work and family life - a few new work routines

As a commuter, I am working much of the time from my home office, and I have to structure my workday - also since I am a father-of-one and my son is in kindergarten (only) 3 days a week (plus, my wife commutes too). After a "discussion" today, I've decided to make a few changes:
  • After travelling on work trips, I'll work only 1 hour or so (checking email etc.) in daytime (plus work in the evening) the first day I am back home again - presupposing that my son is home this day. He is usually very eager to spend time with me once I have been gone (and I with him).
  • In my daily planning, I'll start making room for 1 hour of "email and incidental tasks" in the morning and a further hour for the same task in the evening, in total 2 hours. With this I hope to remedy an all-too-common occurrence: Namely that quite often my daily work plan bursts since new, unexpected tasks that should be dealt with straight away appear. This then leads to working overtime and/or not getting done everything I have planned to get done.
  • Trying to get things done well ahead of deadlines.
In sum this should make me more flexible, more relaxed and a more present father and husband.

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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Exam questions in master course prepared

Yesterday I composed the exam questions for this autumn's exam in the master course "Vitenskapsfilosofi og etikk" [Philosophy of science and ethics] (course code MHV140) at the University of Stavanger's Department of health studies, which will take place as a home exam December 10th-17th.

Master meeting at UiS

Yesterday I took part in the regular Master meeting at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies.

EASLCE paper accepted for presentation

Today I was notified by the organisers of the upcoming conference "Framing Nature: Signs, Stories, and Ecologies of Meaning" (The European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and the Environment (EASLCE) biennial conference), to be held in Tartu, Estonia, April 29th - May 3rd 2014, that my paper "Animals qua sentient beings vs. animals qua resources: A critical reading of the mentions of animals in Norwegian political party programs" has been accepted for presentation by the international advisory board of the conference. 

Norwegian-Estonian research project formally registered at UiS

Today the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants151), for which I am the Norwegian project leader, was formally registered as a research project at University of Stavanger, with an internal project code. The duration of the project is September 1st 2013 to April 30th 2016.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Eight e-compendiums in introductory philosophy revised; four of these produced

This Spring and Autumn I have been in the process of revising 12 e-compendiums which are used in the web-based bachelor in nursing at Department of health studies (UiS), specifically in the course in introductory philosophy Examen Philosophicum (course code BSNEXP). I revised three compendiums this Spring and so far a further five compendiums this Autumn. The original text is written by Ingunn Sira Myhre.

Four of these have now been produced by NettOp, the University of Stavanger's unit for digital learning materials:
  • Eksistensialisme [Existentialism], 16 pp 
  • Erkjennelsesteori: Empirisme [Epistemology - Empiricism], 15 pp
  • Erkjennelsesteori: Rasjonalisme [Epistemology - Rationalism], 13 pp
  • Hva er etikk? [What is ethics?], 7 pp
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Scientific Committee for IACS 1 listed online

The organisers of the September 25-27th 2014 First International Association for Cognitive Semiotics (IACS) Conference, which will take place in Lund, Sweden, have now listed the Scientific Committee members on the conference website.

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