Ethics Cannot Be Voluntary

  • Paul Cobley
Part of the Biosemiotics book series (BSEM, volume 15)


In biosemiotics, ethics is to be considered as arising mainly from three features of the human Umwelt. The first is in the displacement capacity of language: the possibility of signifying, in remote fashion, other times and places, things that have not yet happened (fictions), as well as anticipation and ideal scenarios based on an evaluation of current ones. This latter displacement capacity is ethics. It is probably closely related to other faculties of anticipation as well as the displacement projections mentioned here. The second is in all the aspects of the Umwelt that contribute to experience, including experience of pleasure, pain, sadness, happiness, well-being and so forth. The third is in the specific experience otherness that accrues in the human Umwelt that was discussed in the last chapter. Although these features are sometimes alluded to in passing in the biosemiotic literature, analyses of the ontology of ethics in biosemiotics have been somewhat circumvented. Instead, articles on ethics in biosemiotics have tended to immediately jump to discussions of ethical and moral questions that might be approached in a biosemiotic frame, such as the value accorded to different inhabitants of the biosphere (Tønnessen 2003; Beever 2012).


Human Umwelt Displacement Capacity Semiotic Animal Sebeok Badiou 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Cobley
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Distinguished Visiting Professor, School of Foreign Languages and CulturesNanjing Normal UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.President of the International Association for Semiotic Studies; and Professor in Language and Media, School of Media and Performing ArtsMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK

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