Menschenaffe, Eisvogel und Mimose

Biophänomenologische Überlegungen zu Zeichen, Emotion und Kognition im Vorfeld der Ethik

  • Hans Werner Ingensiep Universität Duisburg-Essen
Keywords: biosemiotics, phenomenology, ethics, animal communication, biosemiotic ethics, great ape, primate, kingfisher, sensitive plant, mimosa pudica, plant neurobiology, history of ideas, Helmuth Plessner


The sign production of living beings presupposes basic phenomena and states, which can correlate with different signs. Hence biosemiotics presupposes fundamental and various forms of biophenomena, e.g. motion, emotion or cognition, which can be biosemiotic media and references. Therefore, biophenomenological categories are necessary. Here, these categories are adopted and modified based on Helmuth Plessner‘s approach; but they are also discussed against the background of evolutionary theory and the philosophy of science of biology. This results in different forms of sign production, discussed with reference to concrete examples (great apes, kingfishers, mimosa pudica) regarding their ethical relevance. The pre-predicative biophenomena themselves as well as the specific signs referring to these biophenomena are important starting points for ethical judgment for human relations with animals and plants. Thus a pragmatic dualism between biophenomena and signs is the basis of bioethics, which may not be reduced in a monistic manner neither in mere signs nor in mere biophenomena. The history of ideas and of science delivers further insights into the change of interpretations and of suppositions about the great apes, the kingfisher and the sensitive plant (mimosa pudica) up to modern plant neurobiology.