Hitchcock (2001a) argues that the distinction between singular and general causation conflates the two distinctions ‘actual causation vs. causal tendencies’ and ‘wide vs. narrow causation’. Based on a recent regularity account of causation I will show that Hitchcock’s introduction of the two distinctions is an unnecessary multiplication of causal concepts.
In the work of Lorenz we find an initial phase of great concordance with Uexkülls theory of animals’ surrounding-world (Umweltlehre), followed by a progressive distance and by the occurrence of more and more critical statements. The moment of greater cohesion between Lorenz and Uexküll is represented by the work Der Kumpan, which is focused on the concept of companion, functional circles, social Umwelt. The great change in Lorenz’ evaluation of Uexküll is marked by the conference of 1948 Referat über (...) class='Hi'>Jakob von Uexküll, where Lorenz highlights the vitalist position of Uexküll. In the works of the years after World War II, the influence of the Estonian Biologist greatly diminishes, even though Lorenz continues to express his admiration for particular studies and concepts of Uexküll. References to Uexküll’s work are less and far in between, while the difference is highlighted between the uexküllian theoretical frame (vitalistic) and Lorenz’s one (Darwinian and evolutionist). The two main critical lines of argument developed by Lorenz in this process are the biological and the epistemological one: on the biological side Lorenz heavily criticizes Uexküll’s vitalism and his faith in harmonizing forces and supernatural factors (which leads to concepts such as the perfect fusion of all biological species in their environment and the absence of rudimentary organs). On the epistemological side, Lorenz, arguing from the point of view of the critical realism, accuses Uexküll of postulating the separateness of all living beings, a separateness which is due to the Kantian idea that every subject of knowledge and action is imprisoned in the transcendental circle of its representations and attitudes. (shrink)
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.. (shrink)
En el presente artículo se analizan conceptos clave de la obra de Jakob von Uexküll, a partir de la confrontación con el darwinismo mecanicista de principios del siglo XX, al cual, Uexküll contrapone la idea de un mundo viviente de interrelaciones, conformado de acuerdo con un Plan u Orden subyacentes. Pero la cuestión no del todo resuelta para Uexküll, y que aquí será estudiada, es el papel que ha de atribuirse al azar y a la tendencia natural de traspasar (...) los límites. Cuestión que adquiere su mayor significación en el plano humano, siendo el hombre, como es, antiguo actor de la transgresión. The intention of this paper is to analyze the principal concepts in Jakob von Uexkiiltt's work, considering the confrontation with the darwinian mechanism of the beginnings of the XXth Century. In response to it, Uexkülll supports the idea of a living world of interrelations, which is conformed in accordance to a subjacent Plan or Order. But the question analyzed here, and which is not at all solved by Uexkülll, is the roll that should be attributed to chance, or the natural tendency to surpass the limits. A problem that acquires its deepest meaning in the human context, because man is, as we know, an old actor of transgression. (shrink)
Dorion Sagan observes that pioneering ethologist Jakob von Uexküll tends to be read in contrasting ways, as a ?humble naturalist? pre-empting current research in biosemiotics, animal perception and agency; and as a ?biologist-shaman,? gesturing to a transcendental realm where the life-worlds of animals interconnect in a vast symphony of nature. In both cases the tools of the laboratory are thought to generate complete pictures of the invertebrates that Uexküll studies, in unity with their environments. As Giorgio Agamben points out, (...) these experiments form part of an abstract mechanism that produces the human, by isolating instinctual life as an object for study and management from social and ethical modes of existence. What these readings neglect to consider is that Uexküll imagines his experiments through a Picture Book frame. We argue that for Uexküll there is always something fabulous and child-like about the enterprise of reconstructing the subjective environments of the small animals he works with. Drawing on Bernard Stiegler, we propose the Picture Book as a particular technics, or tertiary memory, that cultivates modes of attention that are associated with childhood and are open to the emergence of partial objects and relations. Considered through the Picture Book frame, the Umwelten of insects and other small animals are no longer fixed but are drawn and redrawn in partial expressive ways, through the uncanny picturing ? or what Brian Massumi would call ?semblances? ? of different configurations of animal, technology, human relations. By considering the Picture Book as a technic for ecological thought and imagination, our paper will explore how the small creatures that Uexküll describes might enable the emergence of new ethical sensibilities and relations. (shrink)
Like other sciences, biosemiotics also has its time-honoured archive, consisting, among other things, of writings by those who have been invented and revered as ancestors of the discipline. One such example is Jakob von Uexküll who has been hailed as a precursor of semiotics, developing his theory of “sign” and “meaning” independently of Saussure and Peirce. The juxtaposition of “sign” and “meaning” is revelatory because one can equally legitimately claim Uexküll as a hermeneutician in the same way as others (...) having claimed him as a semiotician. Such a novel temptation can be justified by Uexküll’s prolonged obsession with Sinn and Bedeutung since his first book in 1909. This paper attempts to reconstruct the immediate intellectual horizon of Uexküll’s historicity, a discursive space traversed by his contemporaries Frege and Husserl, in order to see how Uexküll’s discussions of Zeichen and Gegenstand, Sinn and Bedeutung, were informedby other philosophers of language, and to establish Uexküll as a phenomenological hermeneutician in the tradition of Husserl, Heidegger and Gadamer. To forestall and counter possible criticism that hermeneutics is primarily concerned with textual interpretation, while Uexküll is at most an interpreter of animal life, the paper will discuss his unfinished parody of the Platonic dialogue Meno, which is entitled Die ewige Frage: Biologische Variationen über einen platonischen Dialog (1943). It is through such textual practice that one witnesses the emergence of an Uexküll who embodies at once the addressee exercising his understanding of ancient texts as well as the second addresser recoding his explanation to another group of targeted addressees. This textual practice already goes beyond the confines of biology and in fact involves the linguistic pragmatics of rhetoric and speech act. (shrink)
Le philosophe populaire berlinois Johann Jakob Engel a amorcé, à la fin du XVIII siècle, des recherches importantes dans le domaine de la sémiotique esthétique, problématique alors presque entièrement neuve que venait de lancer le Laocoon de Lessing. A peine quelque années plus tard, l’œuvre de Engel constitue déjà un élargissement considérable de la problématique lessingienne, tout autant d’ailleurs qu’une remise en cause de certaines de ses prémisses : la sémiotique théâtrale ne peut-elle constituer une alternative à la scission (...) sémiotique des « arts du temps » et des « arts de l’espace » ? Plus spécifiquement, l’analyse sémiotique du geste sera pour Engel l’occasion de dégager deux notions singulièrement opératoires : « peinture » et « expression » (Malerei, Ausdruck) qui seront transposables dans une sémiotique esthétique générale. En effet, elles permettent à Engel est de dégager analogies fortes entre musique, poétique, gestuel, pour s’acheminer vers une sémiotique comparée dont la perspective est entièrement neuve. On en retracera les ressorts essentiels en mettant en lumière le rôle intermédiaire important dévolu d’une part au modèle rhétorique de l’éloquence, d’autre part à la fonction métaphorique – moteurs de la transposition d’une sémiotique du langage à celle d’un « langage du geste ». (shrink)
Semiotics, the body of knowledge developed by study of the action of signs, like every living discipline, depends upon a community of inquirers united through the recognition and adoption of basic principles which establish the ground-concepts and guide-concepts for their ongoing research. These principles, in turn, come to be recognized in the first place through the work of pioneers in the field, workers commonly unrecognized or not fully recognized in their own day, but whose work later becomes foundational as the (...) community of inquirers matures and ‘lays claim to its own’. As semiotics has matured, the work of Jakob von Uexküll in establishing the concept of Umwelt has proven to be just such a pioneering accomplishment for the doctrine of signs, and in this paper I trace out some of the lines of development according to which Uexküll’s concept came to occupy its central place in semiotics today. (shrink)
_Jakob the Liar_ (1999) Director: Peter Kassovitz. Screenplay: Jurek Becker (adapted from his novel), Peter Kassovitz and Didier Decoin. Producers: Nick Gillott, Steven Haft, Robin Williams, Marsha Garces Williams. Cast: Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, Zoltan Barabas, Michael Jeter, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams.
This paper aims to give an insight into developments that contributed to the significance of the work of Jakob von Uexküll and stresses the importance of his occupation in Hamburg. A biographical survey pays tribute to the implication of the historical pretext and context. A scientific survey describes findings and ideas of Uexküll that proved important for the development of biology and the cognitive sciences. In addition, this paper sets out to reject the common notion that Uexküll’s concepts were (...) ideas of a purely theoretical and philosophical character. It confirms that in fact the central aims of his work were to sustain the empirical method in biology and to give biology a sound epistemological basis. Some examples show how historical and theoretical developments converged at Uexküll’s Institut für Umweltforschung in Hamburg and ignited a productive research activity. (shrink)
Thomas Sebeok attributed it to what he called the ‘wretched’ translation of Uexküll’s Theoretische Biologie (1920) that the notion of Umwelt did not reachthe Anglo-American intellectual community much earlier. There is no doubt that making more of Uexküll’s Umweltlehre available in English will not only furtherthe biosemiotic movement, but also fill a gap in the foundational theoretical canon of semiotics in general. The purpose of this paper is to address issues of terminology and theory translation between Uexküll’s Umweltlehre and current (...) biosemiotics. (shrink)
Like other sciences, biosemiotics also has its time-honoured archive, consisting of writings by those who have been invented and revered as ancestors of the discipline. One such example is Jakob von Uexküll. As to the people who ‘invented’ him, they are either, to paraphrase a French cliché, ‘agents du cosmopolitisme sémiotique’ like Thomas Sebeok, or de jure and de facto progenitor like Thure von Uexküll. In the archive is the special issue of Semiotica 42. 1 (1982) edited by the (...) late Sebeok and introduced by Thure von Uexküll. It is in the opening essay that Thure von UexküIl tries to restore Jakob von Uexküll’s role as a precursor of semiotics by negotiating the Elder with Saussure and the linguistics-oriented ‘semiology’ in his wake. However, semiotic mapping, in the strictly ‘disciplinary’ sense, of Jakob von Uexküll is no easy task because he ‘knew neither Peirce nor Saussure and did not use their terminology’ (Thure von Uexküll 1982,2). Because Thure prefers to call the Elder’s science ‘general semiotics’ (Thure von Uexküll 1982), this paper begins by assessing Thure von Uexküll’s semiotic configuration of Jakob, probe into the force and limits of the linguistic analogy, revisit the already time-honoured debate on the primary and secondary modelling systems, which was made famous by the Moscow-Tartu semioticians in the early 1970s, but severely criticized by Sebeok and his followers. The paper engages Sebeok from several fronts, directed first at his relegation of the Saussurian linguistic model, then at his critique of the Primary Modelling System, and finally at his reservation about evolutionism in light of the current debate on gene/meme co-evolution. (shrink)