Living the duty of care: languaging in semiotic fields

Stephen J. Cowley*

*Corresponding author for this work

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New hope can draw on anti-humanist duty of care. Turning from debate about how one ought to act in discursively produced "realities,"Paul Cobley advocates a bioethics of living in semiotic fields. Thanks to observership, humans can make good use of both the known and how things appear as signs. For Cobley, the latter are "mind independent."Once deemed real, semiosis can unite the lawful, the perceivable and, at least, some of the unknown. However, skeptical as I am about metaphysics and mind, I shift the focus to languaging in semiotic fields: human perceiving, doing, and saying entangle languaging with nature's simplex tricks (Berthoz, Alain. 2012. Simplexity: Simplifying principles for a complex world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press). An ethical dimension runs through how we feel, speak and, thus, actualize practices. The duty of care, the known, the knowable, and the unknowable unite in thingishness. What appear to us as signs ensure that perceiving-acting can draw, at times, on fictions and, at others, precision tools. Humans tether sense to wordings as, without end, we actualize practices. Stories bring ethical awareness to attitudes, action, and the due care that shapes understanding and response to institutions. In offering a distributed perspective on language, one makes possible an ecolinguistics that works for life-sustaining relations between humans, nonhumans and what we call "things."

Original languageEnglish
JournalChinese Semiotic Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)115-136
Publication statusPublished - 14. Mar 2023


  • anti-humanist
  • bioethics
  • distributed language
  • ecolinguistics
  • ethics


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