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. Several 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. I work on historical and conceptual projects related to Aldo 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. I lead an interdisciplinary team of graduate students in studying the nature and value of soundscapes as they relate both human/cultural and nonhuman experiences.

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 and Public Health Ethics
My work in bioethics focuses on the historical, conceptual, and practical intersections between traditional bioethics, public health ethics, and environmental ethics. Several articles, numerous conference talks, and several research collaborations have arisen from this research.

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. A 2012-2016 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. Additionally, I worked with colleagues at Penn State and at the University of Central Florida to develop Research Integrity programs that go 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.