Jonathan Beever

Department of Philosophy
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

 
   
   
 

Beever's research is focused broadly on the concept of ecological ethics, or the moral relationships between human animals and their biotechnologies, nonhuman animals, and the natural environment.
You can download his research statement here.

Current research and publishing projects are along the following themes:

Moral Theory
As the scientific understanding and social impact of ecology develops, environmentalism is as important as and more relevant than it ever was.  Yet, contemporary theories of environmental value are inadequate for at least one of two reasons:  either they fail to offer a sufficient scope, or they fail to offer metaethical justification sufficient for application in policy and practice. In response, I work to develop a critical taxonomy of contemporary moral theories against these two criteria and then propose and critique a novel and scientifically-grounded theory of environmental value that extends moral considerability to all living things. This theory is based on a biosemiotic theory of meaning. For the full abstract from my dissertation project, click here. Several other articles, presentations, and teaching goals develop from this theme.

Environmental Ethics
I see the moral theory as important insofar it helps us better understanding how ethics is applied to practical ends. Another theme of my work focuses on contemporary topics in environmental ethics. I work on historical and conceptual projects related toAldo Leopold's Land Ethic, Jakob von Uexkull's Umwelt theory and American Indian ecological thought. Central to each is the relationship between ethics and science, especially the conservation sciences. My work in and among soundscape ecology focuses explictly on this intersection. As a member of several professional research networks related to soundscapes, I speak and write in interdisciplinary settings on the nature and value of soundscapes as they relate both human/cultural and nonhuman experiential approaches. Additionally, I am excited about exploring new lines of thought in environmental philosophy, including through new media. My colleague, Vernon W. Cisney, and I have a bookunder contract with Northwestern University Press titled "The Way of Nature and the Way of Grace: Philosophical Footholds on Terrence Malick's 'The Tree of Life'" that seeks to draw a wider readership into conversation about moral value and responsibility in the natural world through film as philosophy.

Semiosis and Value
Semiotics, the study of signification, is a broad reaching discipline indebted to the work of American pragmatist C.S. Peirce. My interest in semiotics is two-fold. I am firstly interested in the developing project of biosemiotics and have written and spoken broadly about the scope and justification of semiosis in the natural world, with a focus on unpacking normative implications. I am secondly interested in the conceptual work of semiotics, developing projects related to C.S. Peirce, Jakob von Uexkull, and Jean Baudrillard. In my published work, I have applied semiotic analysis and framing to topics of sentience, ecology, and terrorism.

Bioethics, Science, and Policy
My work in bioethics focuses on the intersections, historical, conceptual, and practical, between traditional bioethics and environmental ethics. While a graduate student at Purdue University, I developed (with Nicolae Morar) the Lectures in Ethics, Policy, and Science. The ongoing Lecture series gives philosophers, policy-makers, and scientists the opportunity to discuss current issues in bioethics broadly-construed and is supported by over a dozen sponsors. Out of that lecture series, Morar and I co-edited our 2013 Perspectives in Bioethics, Science, and Public Policy which explores the relationships between ethics, policy, and science that are central to an ecological bioethics. Sections of the book including on nonhuman animals, the environment, and biotechnologies are brought together to develop this richer conception of bioethics. For more information (and to buy a copy!), see: http://www.thepress.purdue.edu/titles/perspectives-bioethics-science-and-public-policy. At Penn State, I co-developed the Research Ethics Lecture Series and am co-authoring a book on a broader conception of research ethics for scientists and engineers.

Additionally, I have collaborated on and co-written several grant proposals, including to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Institute, and the USDA related to the intersection of bioethics and environmental ethics. Several articles and collaborations further this research theme.

Engineering Ethics and Scientific Integrity
My interest in science and ethics has led to several interdisciplinary projects, including in engineering ethics education. In light of the fast pace of biotechnological development, I argue that the best current practices in engineering ethics can be strengthend by application of the biomedical ethics principlist approach. The strength of this approach is its ability to "drill down" to analyses of core value assumptions relevant in cases of emergent technologies. An ongoing NSF EESE Grant: SIRA Modules for Effectively Engaging Engineers in Ethical Reasoning About Emerging Technologies, includes a multidisciplinary team of engineering, communication, and ethics educators developing and testing a pedagogical framework of scaffolded, integrated, and reflexive analysis (SIRA) of ethics cases to provide more effective development of ethical reasoning for engineering ethics education. In this project we are developing and testing new case studies integrating basic moral principles, reflexively reevaluated against professional codes, in a scaffolded learning process. Additionally, I am working with colleagues at Penn State to develop a Research Integrity program that goes beyond traditional Responsible Conduct of Research models in developing moral literacy skills in the sciences and engineering (http://rockethics.psu.edu/education/rise-up). This theme of my research has led to several publications, presentations, and ongoing grant development work.