Grande Arche, ParisZS Biosemiotic ethics - CoverThe special issue “Biosemiotic ethics” of the Zeitschrift für Semiotik (Journal of Semiotics) appears in May 2017 – pre-order it now!

In the past two decades, biosemioticians such as Jesper Hoffmeyer and Kalevi Kull have began to tease out the ethical implications of biosemiotics. This impetus has continued in the last decade, with a new generation of scholars attending to these important issues.

The foundational argument is that if semiosis is a morally-relevant capacity, and if all living systems are semiotic, then biosemiosis can serve as the basis for justifying the attribution of moral status to humans, to animals, and in a larger perspective to all living beings. Biosemiotic ethics opens the road towards a non-functional ecological perspective that doesn't reduce other beings and ecosystems to their usefulness for human existence.

The issue has been guest-edited and prefaced by Morten Tønnessen, Jonathan Beever and Yogi Hale Hendlin, and contains original research articles in English and German by John Deely, Andreas Weber, Hans Werner Ingensiep, Jessica Ullrich, Konrad Ott, Gerald Ostdiek, and by the guest editors, as well as an interview with the legendary pioneer of the field, Wendy Wheeler. The table of contents as well as the abstracts of all articles are available online.

[May 2015:] Now online: my thoughts on the anti-semiotic movement in parts of philosophy (especially phenomenology), aesthetics, and image studies. I look at the arguments, show how semiotics can learn from them, and demonstrate connections of the anti-semiotic movement with trends against analytical and scientific approaches in the humanities.

[Feb 2015:] Visit the recently founded Virtual Centre for Cultural Semiotics!

Semiotics – Past and Future

I've learned semiotics at the Research Center for Semiotics in Berlin, which was founded by Roland Posner. He developed a classification of sign processes, building up from simple signs (such as signals and indizes) towards communication and speech acts; it is summarized in his article “Believing, Causing, Intending”. This is a truly groundbreaking work, clearly written (some background in analytical philosophy is helpful), and richly rewarding, if you take the time to work through it.

I've used this approach to analyse literary texts; it's currently also applied in gesture and film studies (e.g. here). If you're interested in communication, and how it relies on intentional states such as complex intentions and beliefs: Like it, you will.

Some of my thoughts on semiotics and its future – currently available only in German – packed into 10 theses; I'll try and translate them soon.

10 Thesen zur Semiotik und ihrer Zukunft

Please mail me with proposals or ideas.

Coffee semiotics