, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 375–392 | Cite as

Steps to a Semiotics of Being

  • Morten TønnessenEmail author
Original Paper


The following points, which represent a path to a semiotics of being, are pertinent to various sub-fields at the conjunction of semiotics of nature (biosemiotics, ecosemiotics, zoosemiotics) and semiotics of culture—semioethics and existential semiotics included. 1) Semiotics of being entails inquiry at all levels of biological organization, albeit, wherever there are individuals, with emphasis on the living qua individuals (integrated biological individualism). 2) An Umwelt is the public aspect (cf. the Innenwelt, the private aspect) of a phenomenal/experienced world that is organism-specific (rather than species-specific) and ultimately refers to an existential realm. 3) Existential universals at work on Earth include seeking out the edible, dwelling in a medium, holding a phenomenal world (possibly an Umwelt) and being endowed with life, and consequently being mortal. 4) Human Umwelten include speechless Umwelten, spoken Umwelten and alphabetic Umwelten. 5) An Uexküllian phenomenology—stating that semiotic states represent the general class to which all mental/cognitive states belong—can draw on the works of the phenomenologists David Abram and Ted Toadvine (The notion of semiotic states is treated in Tønnessen 2009a: 62–63. For an introduction to eco-phenomenology, see Brown and Toadvine (eds.) 2003). 6) A task for such a phenomenology is to portray the natural history of the phenomenal world. 7) An imperative task in our contemporary world of faltering biological diversity is that of Umwelt mapping, i.e. a mapping of ontological niches. 8) The ecological crisis is an ontological crisis with historical roots in humankind’s domestication of animals and plants, which can be taken as archetypical for our attempted planet-scale taming of the wild. 9) The process of globalization is expressed by correlated trends of depletion of semiotic diversity and semiotic diversification. 10) Semiotic economy is a field which task it is to map the human ontological niche insofar as its semiotic relations are of an economic nature. All ten points will be commented (explicitly or implicitly) in due time.


Phenomenology Perception Value Semiotic causation Umwelt terminology Umwelt mapping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SemioticsInstitute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of TartuTartuEstonia

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