Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy: Life, Environments, Anthropology, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy

Life, Environments, Anthropology, 1st Edition

Edited by Francesca Michelini, Kristian Köchy


320 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367232733
pub: 2019-12-20
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By some dismissed 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, 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 make justice of 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

Brett Buchanan

Introduction. A Foray into Jakob von Uexküll’s Heritage

Francesca Michelini

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

Maurizio Esposito

Chapter 3. Uexküll’s Legacy: Biological Reception and Biophilosophical Impact

Kristian Köchy

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

Ralf Becker

Chapter 5. Closed Environment and Open World: On the Significance of Uexküll’s Biology for Helmuth Plessner’s Natural Philosophy

Hans-Peter Krüger

Chapter 6. Ernst Cassirer’s Reading of Jakob von Uexküll: Between Natural Teleology and Anthropology

Carlo Brentari

Chapter 7. The Philosopher’s Boredom and the Lizard’s Sun. Martin Heidegger’s Interpretation of Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory

Francesca Michelini

Chapter 8. Animal Behavior and the Passage to Culture: Merleau-Ponty’s Remarks on Uexküll

Tristan Moyle

Chapter 9. The Organism and its Umwelt: A Counterpoint between the Theories of Uexküll, Goldstein and Canguilhem

Agustín Ostachuk

Chapter 10. From Ontology to Ethology: Uexküll and Deleuze & Guattari

Felice Cimatti

Chapter 11. Hans Blumenberg: The Transformation of Uexküll’s Bioepistemology into Phenomenology

Cornelius Borck

Chapter 12. Giorgio Agamben: The Political Meaning of Uexküll’s "Sleeping Tick"

Marco Mazzeo

Chapter 13. Jakob von Uexküll and the Study of Primary Meaning-Making

Kalevi Kull

Chapter 14. Jakob von Uexküll’s Theory of Umwelt Revisited in the Wake of the Third Culture: Staging Reciprocity and Cooperation between Artistic Agents

Jui-Pi Chien

Afterword. A Future for Jakob von Uexküll

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo

About the Editors

Francesca Michelini is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kassel (Germany). Her main fields of research are the anti-reductionist 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 (amongst 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).

About the Series

History and Philosophy of Biology

This series explores significant developments in the life sciences from historical and philosophical perspectives. Historical episodes include Aristotelian biology, Greek and Islamic biology and medicine, Renaissance biology, natural history, Darwinian evolution, Nineteenth-century physiology and cell theory, Twentieth-century genetics, ecology, and systematics, and the biological theories and practices of non-Western perspectives. Philosophical topics include individuality, reductionism and holism, fitness, levels of selection, mechanism and teleology, and the nature-nurture debates, as well as explanation, confirmation, inference, experiment, scientific practice, and models and theories vis-à-vis the biological sciences.

Authors are also invited to inquire into the "and" of this series. How has, does, and will the history of biology impact philosophical understandings of life? How can philosophy help us analyze the historical contingency of, and structural constraints on, scientific knowledge about biological processes and systems? In probing the interweaving of history and philosophy of biology, scholarly investigation could usefully turn to values, power, and potential future uses and abuses of biological knowledge.

The scientific scope of the series includes evolutionary theory, environmental sciences, genomics, molecular biology, systems biology, biotechnology, biomedicine, race and ethnicity, and sex and gender. These areas of the biological sciences are not silos, and tracking their impact on other sciences such as psychology, economics, and sociology, and the behavioral and human sciences more generally, is also within the purview of this series.

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and Visiting Scholar of Philosophy at Stanford University (2015-2016). He works in the philosophy of science and philosophy of biology and has strong interests in metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy, in addition to cartography and GIS, cosmology and particle physics, psychological and cognitive science, and science in general. Recent publications include "The Structure of Scientific Theories," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and "Race and Biology," The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. His book with University of Chicago Press, When Maps Become the World, is forthcoming.

[email protected]


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General