Ivana Covic

Dissertation: Biopoetics in Contemporary Art


In current bioethical debates and investigations, both philosophical and interdisciplinary ones, artistic contributions are to a certain extent taken into account in illuminating bioethical issues. However, the role of art in understanding, articulating and solving those problems in the present state of bioethical discussions and inquiries remains methodologically and epistemologically undefined in a way that artistic elaborations are considered only as arbitrary illustrations of the problem that is being debated on. Given that art complements and encompasses our cognitive abilities by activating sensible cognitive potential, and through that enables the formation of orientational knowledge, bioethical debates should necessarily admit the artistic approach as unavoidable and equal to the scientific/philosophical/interdisciplinary ones. In present bioethical disputes that is not the case, precisely because of the methodologically and epistemologically undefined role of art, respectively the fact that the artistic approach is not methodologically integrated with the philosophical and interdisciplinary approach in a united cognitive paradigm that would surpass the frame of interdisciplinarity and thus become – transdisciplinary. This merging of arts and sciences (and even other human forms of being and acting in-the-world) corresponds to the unity of the human mind in which sensibilities and rationalities are not clearly separated, and furthermore with “the unbroken totality, which ultimately merges with whole of the existence” (Bohm, 1996: 76-77). 

The central objective of this inquiry is the substitution of this deficiency of the present bioethical debate, which aims to be achieved by constituting the concept of biopoetics on the ground of inquiries of bioethical themes in contemporary art. However, it is important to note that the term biopoetics was so far not widely used. In other scholarly fields, the term biopoetics is used to denote something different, namely a relatively new literary theory aiming to bridge the gap between evolutionary sciences and literature and arts (e.g. Bankston, Diss. 2004; Cooke, 2001), whereas here the term is used to denote the building paradigm of connecting arts and bioethics into a new poetics of dealing with moral issues that are thematised in bioethical inquires. A vague connection of the term biopoetics and bioethics has been established in another understanding of the term, closer to the one proposed here (Biti and Marot Kiš, 2008:286-289). However, this understanding not clearly defined nor extensively elaborated to the present point.  

Short Bio

Ivana Covic, currently a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Vienna, collected some of her practical and philosophical working experience in Vienna, Zagreb, and most recently Brussels, where she did a traineeship at the European Parliament. Central points of interest revolve around bringing together art, bioethics and philosophy of mind (biopoetics), with focus on the mind-body problem, bioethics of artificial intelligence and animal ethics.   


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