|Abstract||How does the Umwelt concept of Jakob von UexkuÈll ®t into current discussions within theoretical biology, philosophy of biology, biosemiotics, and Arti®cial Life, particularly the research on `autonomous systems' and robots? To investigate this question, the approach here is not historical UexkuÈll scholarship exposing the original core of philosophical ideas that provided an important background for the original conception of the Umwelt in the writings of Jakob von UexkuÈll (some of which seem incompatible with a modern evolutionist perspective); rather, I will show that some aspects of his thoughts are still interesting and provide inspiration in contemporary biology, cognitive science, and other ®elds. Therefore, I will also draw upon his son Thure von UexkuÈll's re¯ections in his further development of the Umwelt theory, which is not anti-evolutionary (his father's approach was anti-Darwinian, which is not the same as anti-evolutionary though often interpreted as such). Speci®cally, I will investigate the plausibility of three theses: (1) The Umwelt theory of Jakob von UexkuÈll, even though his theoretical biology was often characterized as being thoroughly vitalist, can in the context of contemporary science, more adequately be interpreted as a branch of qualitative organicism in theoretical biology. Qualitative organicism is a position which claims, ®rst, a kind of middle road position, that is, on the one hand, there are no mysterious or non-material vital powers in organisms (non-vitalism), but on the other hand, the characteristic properties of living beings cannot be fully accounted for by physics and chemistry because these properties are nonreducible emergent properties (emergentism); second, that some of these emergent properties have an experiential, phenomenal, or subjective character which plays a major role in the dynamics of the living system. Modern biosemiotics (inspired by C. S. Peirce and Jakob von UexkuÈll, instituted by..|
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