A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with A Theory of Meaning (Posthumanities)

A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with A Theory of Meaning (Posthumanities)

Jakob von Uexküll

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0816659001

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Is the tick a machine or a machine operator? Is it a mere object or a subject? With these questions, the pioneering biophilosopher Jakob von Uexküll embarks on a remarkable exploration of the unique social and physical environments that individual animal species, as well as individuals within species, build and inhabit. This concept of the umwelt has become enormously important within posthumanist philosophy, influencing such figures as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, and, most recently, Giorgio Agamben, who has called Uexküll "a high point of modern antihumanism."
A key document in the genealogy of posthumanist thought, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans advances Uexküll's revolutionary belief that nonhuman perceptions must be accounted for in any biology worth its name; it also contains his arguments against natural selection as an adequate explanation for the present orientation of a species' morphology and behavior. A Theory of Meaning extends his thinking on the umwelt, while also identifying an overarching and perceptible unity in nature. Those coming to Uexküll's work for the first time will find that his concept of the umwelt holds out new possibilities for the terms of animality, life, and the whole framework of biopolitics itself.

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version which does not smooth over UexkiiU's insistence on these particular terms and their consistent development as a system. To do otherwise would have been to assimilate his thought in both its precision and its excess to another system or, in other words, to read his discourse as if it were coming from some environment other t h a n t h a t of Jakob von Uexkull. A FORAY OF INTO THE ANIMALS WORLDS AND HUMANS FOREWORD THE PRESENT BOOKLET does not claim to serve as t h e

introduction to a new science. Rather, it only contains what one might call the description of a walk into unknown worlds. These worlds are not only unknown; they are also invisible. Furthermore, the justification for their existence is denied by many zoologists and physiologists. While this assertion will sound odd to anyone familiar with those worlds, it can be explained by the fact t h a t not everyone has access to those worlds. Certain convictions are able to bar the entrance to those worlds

the same objects with effect marks. The object only takes part in this action to the extent that it must possess the necessary properties, which can serve on the one hand as feature carriers and, on the other, as effect sign carriers, and which must be in contact with each other through a reciprocal structure. Receptor Percepo tin organ Percepo tin-mark carrier The connection of Counterstructure Counter structure subject to object can be Efect organ Efect-mark carrier most clearly explained by

simplest to the most complex, are inserted into their environments to the same degree of perfection. The simple animal has a simple environment; the multiform animal has an environment just as richly articulated as it is. Now, let us place the tick into the functional cycle as a subject and the mammal as its object. It is seen t h a t three functional cycles take place, according to plan, one after the other. The mammal's skin glands comprise the feature carriers of the first cycle, since the

eye. Figure l i e corresponds approximately to the image provided by the eye of the housefly. One can easily understand t h a t in an environment t h a t displays so few details, the threads of a spider's web are completely lost to sight, and we may say t h a t the spider weaves a net t h a t remains completely invisible to its prey. The last figure ( l i d ) corresponds to the image impressed upon the eye of a mollusk. As one can see, the visual space of snails and mussels contains nothing but a

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