Poetic Objectivity

Toward an Ethics of Aliveness

Keywords: ethics, ecological ethics, embodiment, ecosystem, moral, biosemiotics, biosemiotic ethics, philosophy, moral philosophy, animal rights, environment, aliveness, commons, ethical commons


In this essay I will explore the possibility of an objective ecological ethics. To do this, I follow the embodied ethos of relationships: meaningful expression and mutual sharing occuring in living organisms and systems. Living beings on various levels of identity (cellular selves, individuals, and ecosystems) strive toward increased aliveness. They are self-healing, and generate meaningful relationships, all without the need or interference of human ethical thinking. Ecosystems tend toward complexity and organisms tend to avoid their own destruction. Both tendencies create “natural values” – values not extractable into abstraction, yet nonetheless fundamentally embodied in the actions of living beings and living systems. An ethics based on these principles (or insights) is inclusive in that it can be conceived as a sort of “poetic objectivity”. Here the ethically good is the increase in “aliveness”, which can be shared by other beings, and which is only possible as “being through the other”. Aliveness is ineffable and cannot be extracted analytically. Hence it is objective only in a poetic sense that can be shared through participation. An ethics of poetic objectivity leaves room to negotiate individual relationships and narratives while providing goodness as an encompassing context tuning into the degree of sharing and mutual inspiration to be more alive. The natural values generated by sharing transformative relationships produce the whole of nature as an “ethical commons”. Its principles can be instructive in reorganising human exchange on ethical and economical levels.