Advertisement

Biosemiotics

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

Steps to a Semiotics of Being

  • Morten TønnessenEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Phenomenology Perception Value Semiotic causation Umwelt terminology Umwelt mapping 

References

  1. Abram, D. (1997). The spell of the sensuous: Perception and language in a more-than-human-world. New York: Vintage Books/Random House.Google Scholar
  2. Abram, D. (2010). The discourse of the birds. Biosemiotics, 3(2). doi: 10.1007/s12304-010-9075-z. Excerpt from D. Abram (2010): Becoming animal: An earthly cosmology. New York: Pantheon.
  3. Agler, D. (2006). The symbolic self. Cognitio-Estudos: Revista Eletrônica de Filosofia, 3(1), 1–9.Google Scholar
  4. Andrews, E., & Maksimova, E. (2008). Semiospheric transitions: a key to modelling translation. Sign Systems Studies, 36(2), 259–270.Google Scholar
  5. Barbieri, M. (2010). On the origin of language: a synthesis of Biolinguistics and Biosemiotics. Biosemiotics, 3(3), forthcoming.Google Scholar
  6. Brock, F. (1939). Typenlehre und Umweltforschung: Grundlegung einer idealistichen Biologie (= Bios vol. 9). Leipzig: Verlag von Johann Ambrosium Barth.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, C. S., & Toadvine, T. (Eds.) (2003). Eco-Phenomenology: Back to the earth itself. Albany: State University of New York PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Burghardt, G. M. (1997). Amending Tinbergen: A fifth aim for ethology. In R. Mitchell (Ed.), Anthropomorphism, anecdotes, and animals (pp. 254–276). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  9. Champagne, M. (2010). Axiomatizing Umwelt normativity. In print, Sign Systems Studies.Google Scholar
  10. de Saussure, F. (1983[1916]). In C. Bally & A. Sechehaye (Eds.), Course in general linguistics, trans. R. Harris. La Salle: Open Court.Google Scholar
  11. Deely, J. (2005). Basics of semiotics. Fourth (bilingual) edition. Tartu: Tartu University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Diamond, J. (2002). Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature, 418(8), 700–707.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Faugstad Aarø, A. (2010). Merleau–Ponty’s concept of nature and the ontology of flesh. Biosemiotics, 3(2). doi: 10.1007/s12304-010-9080-2.
  14. Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hoffmeyer, J. (1996). Signs of meaning in the universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hoffmeyer, J. (2008). The semiotic niche. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology, 9, 5-30. An edited excerpt of J. Hoffmeyer (2008): Biosemiotics: An examination into the signs of life and the life of signs. Tr. J. Hoffmeyer and tr. and ed. D. Favareau. Scranton and London: University of Scranton Press.Google Scholar
  17. Jacob, F. (1988). The statue within. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Kleisner, K., & Stella, M. (2009). Monsters we met, monsters we made: on the parallel emergence of phenotypic similarity under domestication. Sign Systems Studies, 37(3/4), 454–476.Google Scholar
  19. Kull, K., Emmeche, C., & Favareau, D. (2008). Biosemiotic questions. Biosemiotics, 1, 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lindström, K., & Tønnessen, M. (2010). Being in the world of the living—semiotic perspectives. Biosemiotics, 3(2) (this volume).Google Scholar
  21. Lotman, Y. (1991). Technological progress as a problem in the study of culture. Poetics Today, 12(4), 781–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Martinelli, D. (2009). Of birds, whales and other musicians: An introduction to zoomusicology. Scranton: University of Scranton Press.Google Scholar
  23. Petrilli, S., & Ponzio, A. (2005). Semiotics unbounded: Interpretive routes through the open network of signs. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rothenberg, D. (1989). Introduction: Ecosophy T—from intuition to system. In A. Næss (Ed.), Ecology, community and lifestyle: Outline of an ecosophy (tr. and ed. D. Rothenberg) (pp. 1–22). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Sebeok, T. A. (1999). The sign science and the life science. Applied Semiotics/Sémiotique appliquée, 3(6/7), 85–96.Google Scholar
  26. Sonesson, G. (2009). New considerations on the proper study of man—and, marginally, some other animals. Cognitive Semiotics, 4, 134–169.Google Scholar
  27. Toadvine, T. (2003). Singing the world in a new key: Merleau–Ponty and the ontology of sense. Janus Head, 7(2), 273–283.Google Scholar
  28. Tønnessen, M. (2003). Umwelt ethics. Sign Systems Studies, 31(1), 281–299.Google Scholar
  29. Tønnessen, M. (2009a). Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change. Biosemiotics, 2(1), 47–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tønnessen, M. (2009b). Where I end and you begin: The threshold of the self and the intrinsic value of the phenomenal world. In E. Tarasti (Ed.), Communication: Understanding/misunderstanding (pp. 1798–1803); Proceedings of the 9th congress of the IASS/AIS—Helsinki/Imatra, 11/17 June, 2007 (= Acta Semiotica Fennica XXXIV); volume III.Google Scholar
  31. Tønnessen, M. (2009c). Signs grow—but should they? Semioethics and the dominant semiosis of Homo sapiens sapiens (= Meditationes Semioticae I). Hortus Semioticus, 4, 81–84.Google Scholar
  32. Tønnessen, M. (2009d). Abstraction, cruelty and other aspects of animal play (Exemplified by the playfulness of Muki and Maluca). Sign Systems Studies, 37(3/4), 558–579.Google Scholar
  33. Tønnessen, M. (2010a). The global species. New formations, in print.Google Scholar
  34. Tønnessen, M. (2010b). I, wolf: The ecology of experience. In A. Faugstad Aarø & J. Servan (Eds.), Embodiment, environment and history. Bergen: Hermes Text.Google Scholar
  35. Tønnessen, M., & Deely, J. (2009). The semioethics interviews I: John Deely: ‘Tell me, where is morality bred?’. Hortus Semioticus, 4, 57–80.Google Scholar
  36. von Uexküll, J. (1982 [1940]). The theory of meaning. Semiotica, 42(1), 25–80. Translation of J. von Uexküll (1956[1940]): Bedeutungslehre, in J. von Uexküll (1956): Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre. Hamburg: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  37. von Uexküll, J. (2001). The new concept of Umwelt: a link between science and the humanities. Translated by Gosta Brunow. Semiotica, 134(1/4), 111–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wheeler, W. (2006). The whole creature: Complexity, biosemiotics and the evolution of culture. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  39. Wheeler, W. (2010). Delectable creatures and the fundamental reality of metaphor: biosemiotics and animal mind. Biosemiotics, 3(2). doi: 10.1007/s12304-010-9076-y.
  40. Wittgenstein, L. (1980). In G. H. von Wright (Ed.), Culture and value (in collaboration with H. Nyman), trans. P. Winch. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  41. Zahavi, D., & Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations