Dismissed by some as the last of the anti-Darwinians, his fame as a rigorous biologist even tainted by an alleged link to National Socialist ideology, it is undeniable that Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) was eagerly read by many philosophers across the spectrum of philosophical schools, from Scheler to Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze and from Heidegger to Blumenberg and Agamben. What has then allowed his name to survive the misery of history as well as the usually fatal gap between science and humanities?
This collection of essays attempts for the first time to do justice to Uexküll’s theoretical impact on Western culture. By highlighting his importance for philosophy, the book aims to contribute to the general interpretation of the relationship between biology and philosophy in the last century and explore the often neglected connection between continental philosophy and the sciences of life. Thanks to the exploration of Uexküll’s conceptual legacy, the origins of cybernetics, the overcoming of metaphysical dualisms, and a refined understanding of organisms appear variedly interconnected.
Uexküll’s background and his relevance in current debates are thoroughly examined as to appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as postdoctoral researchers in fields such as history of the life sciences, philosophy of biology, critical animal studies, philosophical anthropology, biosemiotics and biopolitics.
Table of Contents
Foreword. Philosophizing with Animals
Introduction. A Foray into Jakob von Uexküll’s Heritage
PART 1. Jakob von Uexküll and His Historical Background
Chapter 1. Jakob von Uexküll, an Intellectual History
Juan Manuel Heredia
Chapter 2. Kantian Ticks, Uexküllian Melodies and the Transformation of Transcendental Philosophy
Chapter 3. Uexküll’s Legacy: Biological Reception and Biophilosophical Impact
PART 2. Jakob von Uexküll’s Relevance for Philosophy
Chapter 4. Creative Life and the Ressentiment of Homo Faber. How Max Scheler integrates Uexküll’s Theory of Environment
Chapter 5. Closed Environment and Open World: On the Significance of Uexküll’s Biology for Helmuth Plessner’s Natural Philosophy
Chapter 6. Ernst Cassirer’s Reading of Jakob von Uexküll: Between Natural Teleology and Anthropology
Chapter 7. The Philosopher’s Boredom and the Lizard’s Sun. Martin Heidegger’s Interpretation of Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory
Chapter 8. Animal Behavior and the Passage to Culture: Merleau-Ponty’s Remarks on Uexküll
Chapter 9. The Organism and its Umwelt: A Counterpoint between the Theories of Uexküll, Goldstein and Canguilhem
Chapter 10. From Ontology to Ethology: Uexküll and Deleuze & Guattari
Chapter 11. Hans Blumenberg: The Transformation of Uexküll’s Bioepistemology into Phenomenology
Chapter 12. Giorgio Agamben: The Political Meaning of Uexküll’s "Sleeping Tick"
Chapter 13. Jakob von Uexküll and the Study of Primary Meaning-Making
Chapter 14. Jakob von Uexküll’s Theory of Umwelt Revisited in the Wake of the Third Culture: Staging Reciprocity and Cooperation between Artistic Agents
Afterword. A Future for Jakob von Uexküll
Ezequiel A. Di Paolo
Francesca Michelini is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kassel (Germany). Her main fields of research are the antireductionist theories of life and the bridging of continental philosophy and science. She is author of many publications on the topic of philosophical anthropology, philosophy of the life sciences, teleological explanations in nature, and autonomy in biology (among others: The Living and the Deficiency. Essays on Teleology 2011, in Italian).
Kristian Köchy is a biologist and Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Kassel (Germany). His research focuses on the areas of philosophy of science and the history of the life sciences, natural philosophy and the philosophy of animal-human relations. He is author of an introduction on Biophilosophy (2008, in German) and co-editor of a three-volume collection on the philosophy of animal research (Philosophie der Tierforschung, 2016-2018).