Interview on biosemiotic ethics with Wendy Wheeler

Keywords: biosemiotics, ethics, biosemiotic ethics, ecological ethics, Charles S. Peirce, pragmatism, aesthetics, human exceptionalism, sentimentalism, puritanism, moral agency, Jesper Hoffmeyer


In this interview, Wendy Wheeler, London Metropolitan University Emerita Professor of English Literature and Cultural Inquiry, discusses her thoughts on biosemiotics and its relevance for ethics. In Wheeler’s perspective, biosemiotics can ground ethics because it offers an alternative and fitting ontology of relations. She shares her thoughts on Peirce as a foundational figure for biosemiotics, and explains why she doubts that an ecological ethics can be framed in terms of laws. Further, she discusses her views on moral agency in nonhumans, and warns against ideas based on human exceptionalism, sentimentalism and puritanism. Wheeler thinks that a biosemiotic ethics can posit a more located, or systemically nested, sense of semiotic value. Her moral question, she explains, would always be something like: Is this growing? Is this lively?