Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 11, No 1 (2015)

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The Obesity Crisis and Semiotic Corruption

Glenn McLaren


Is there an obesity crisis?  Postmodernists like Michael Gard argue that there is not while epidemiologists argue that there is and it is growing.  In this paper, I argue that such polarized positions are not a sign of healthy dialectic, but a sign of an increasingly fragmented and reductionist obesity research field.  As a further example, I draw on long term seemingly unresolvable disputes within nutrition brought about through reductionist approaches.  I argue that there is an obesity crisis, that it is linked to other major global crises and that to meaningfully address it will require greater unity within the obesity research field.  I therefore put forward the post-reductionist general concept of semiotic corruption developed by process philosopher, Arran Gare and drawn from the emerging post-reductionist field of biosemiotics, as a potential unifying concept for the field.  In doing this I explore the history and nature of biosemiotics and its links to other holistic traditions which all seek to mend the gross philosophical errors committed by those such as Descartes who ruptured the relationship between living and non-living processes.  I then discuss some implications of this holistic approach for better understanding obesity as semiotic corruption, particularly focusing on the concepts of embodied, anticipatory systems and the need for a new ethics of health which understands and augments the real complexity and irreducibility of life.

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