This is the second article in a series of review articles addressing biosemiotic terminology. The biosemiotic glossary project is designed to integrate views of members within the biosemiotic community based on a standard survey and related publications. The methodology section describes the format of the survey conducted July–August 2014 in preparation of the current review and targeted on Jakob von Uexküll’s term ‘Umwelt’. Next, we summarize denotation, synonyms and antonyms, with special emphasis on the denotation of this term in (...) current biosemiotic usage. The survey findings include ratings of eight citations defining or making use of the term Umwelt. We provide a summary of respondents’ own definitions and suggested term usage. Further sections address etymology, relevant contexts of use, and related terms in English and other languages. A section on the notion’s Uexküllian meaning and later biosemiotic meaning is followed by attempt at synthesis and conclusion. We conclude that the Umwelt is a centerpiece phenomenon, a phenomenon that other phenomena in the living realm are organized around. To sum up Uexküll’s view, we can characterize an Umwelt as the subjective world of an organism, enveloping a perceptual world and an effector world, which is always part of the organism itself and a key component of nature, which is held together by functional cycles connecting different Umwelten. In order to pay respect to Uexküll’s work, we must move from notion to model, from mention of Uexküll’s Umwelt term to actual application of it. (shrink)
What role does environmental change play in Jakob von Uexküll’s thought? And what role can it play in a up-to-date Uexküllian framework? Admittedly, in hindsight it appears that the Umwelt theory suffers from its reliance on Uexküll’s false premise that the environment (including its mixture of species) is generally stable. In this article, the Umwelt theory of Uexküll is reviewed in light of modern findings related to environmental change, especially from macroevolution. Uexküll’s thought is interpreted as a distinctive (...) theory of phenomenology—an ‘Uexküllian phenomenology’—characterized by an assumption of the (in the realm of life) universal existence of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds. It is suggested that acknowledging this distinctiveness is critical for eco-phenomenology as well as for biosemiotics; the latter of which can only thus thrive as a true ‘semiotics of being’, rather than a mere ‘semiotics of functioning’. (shrink)
This article argues for an epistemology of music, stating that dealing with music can be considered as a process of knowledge acquisition. What really matters is not the representation of an ontological musical reality, but the generation of music knowledge as a tool for adaptation to the sonic world. Three major positions are brought together: the epistemological claims of Jean Piaget, the biological methodology of Jakob von Uexküll, and the constructivistic conceptions of Ernst von Glasersfeld, each ingstress the role of (...) the music user rather than the music. Dealing with music, in this view, is not a matter of representation, but a process of semiotization of the sonorous environment as the outcome of interactions with the sound. Hence the role of enactive cognition and perceptual-motor interaction with the sonic environment. What is considered a central issue is the way how listeners as subjects experience their own phenomenal world or Umwelt, and how they can make sense out of their sonic environment. Umwelt-research, therefore, is highly relevant for music education in stressing the role of the listener and his/her listening strategies. (shrink)
It is a truism among ethologists that one must not forget that animals perceive and represent the world differently from humans. Sometimes this caution is phrased in terms of von Uexküll’s Umwelt concept. Yet it seems possible (perhaps even unavoidable) to adopt a common ontological framework when comparing different species of mind. For some purposes it seems sufficient to anchor comparative cognition in common-sense categories; bats echolocate insects (or a subset of them) after all. But for other purposes it (...) seems necessary to find out more about how organisms organize their perceptions into biologically significant and perhaps cognitively meaningful states. Complex animals have high bandwidth sensory channels that feed into large nerve networks with very complex dynamics. Even for relatively simple animals belonging to species believed to have a small, fixed number of neurons, the odds are very much against any two animals of the same species, let alone different species, having exactly the same couplings to the environment, the same dimensionality in their nervous systems, or the same dynamics. Given such diversity (which von Uexküll himself recognized), how should we think about shared representation, shared meaning, and cognitive similarity between individuals and species? (shrink)
Individual semiotic systems interpreting their environment are not well understood from the externalist approach typical of the scientific method. Science constructs probabilities describing large populations of systems, not individuals. The Umwelt, as the individually experienced/created aspects of the habitat aspect of its population’s ecological niche, is given an internalist understanding within the framework of the compositional hierarchy. Vagueness is an important aspect of the internalist condition. It is selectively reduced momentarily by creative choices that can have a Peircean semiotic (...) formulation, and which are often unpredictable externally, thereby appearing to be chance events. (shrink)
The present paper stems from the biosemiotic modelling of individual artificial cognition proposed by Ferreira and Caldas (2012) but goes further by introducing the concept of Umwelt Overlap. The introduction of this concept is of fundamental importance making the present model closer to natural cognition. In fact cognition can only be viewed as a purely individual phenomenon for analytical purposes. In nature it always involves the crisscrossing of the spheres of action of those sharing the same environmental bubble. Plus, (...) the incorporation of that concept is vital to understand the complex semiosis that sustains collective tissues, societies, regulating collective cognition and consequently cooperative action. The concept of Umwelt Overlap broadens the range of applicability of the previous model to several distinct domains allowing for example for its application to multi-agent cooperative autonomous systems. In this paper a Middle Size League RoboCup soccer team is used as an example of a possible application. (shrink)
Uexküll’s 1917 critique of what he calls the “English morality”, written during World War I, points the contemporary reader toward important implications of the translation of descriptive scientific models to normative ethical theories. A key figure motivating biosemiotics, Uexküll presents here a darker side: one where his Umwelt theory seems to motivate a bio-cultural hierarchy of value and worth, where some human beings are worth more than others precisely because of the constraints of their Umwelten. The first English translation (...) of this essay, introduced here, gives scholars access to Uexküll’s lines of thought, historical context, and normative interpretations. It is particularly pertinent for contemporary attempts to develop a biosemiotic ethics based, among other things, on the Umwelt theory. (shrink)
This chapter approaches the hierarchical theory of time from a philosophical point of view. It is based on a critical reading of Fraser's work through Neo-Kantian eyes. The chapter reflects upon the methodological constraints that apply to a natural philosophy of time. At the same time, it attempts to resolve some tensions between this theory's content and its epistemological and ontological foundations as stated by Fraser himself. The chapter begins with a discussion on the essential characteristics of the Neo-Kantian point (...) of view. Next, it enumerates the main points of contention between Fraser's and the Neo-Kantian point of view, but also the logical tensions inherent in Fraser's position. This is followed by a critical review of Fraser's "working concept" of truth and of the extended umwelt principle. Some consequences for the hierarchical theory of time are proposed. (shrink)
Der Tagungsband versammelt Beiträge des 2. Forums Architekturwissenschaft zum Thema Architektur im Gebrauch, das vom 25. bis 27. November 2015 im Schader-Forum in Darmstadt stattfand. Die Beiträge nähern sich dem Thema grundlegend in zwei Perspektiven. Zum einen interessiert die lebensweltliche Verankerung von Architektur: die Gebrauchserfahrungen und die vielfältigen Weisen, in denen das Gebaute im Alltag jedes Menschen in Erscheinung tritt. Zum anderen werden die Vorstellungen vom Gebrauch in Prozessen des Planens und Bauens untersucht. Dabei treten unweigerlich auch Spannungsverhältnisse auf - (...) zwischen Planerinnen und Nutzern, aber auch zwischen unterschiedlichen Gebrauchsweisen. Sowohl in theoretischen Auseinandersetzungen zu einem Begriff von Gebrauch in der Architektur als auch in empirischen Studien zu einzelnen Bauten und Bautypen, zeitgeschichtlichen Gebrauchsphänomenen und Situationen des Alltags wird dem auf den Grund gegangen. (shrink)
It is argued that the notion of Umwelt is relevant for contemporary discussions within theoretical biology, biosemiotics, the study of Artificial Life, Autonomous Systems Research and philosophy of biology. Focus is put on the question of whether an artificial creature can have a phenomenal world in the sense of the Umwelt notion of Jakob von Uexküll, one of the founding figures of biosemiotics. Rather than vitalism, Uexküll's position can be interpreted as a version of qualitative organicism. A historical (...) sketch of Autonomous Systems Research (ASR) is presented to show its theoretical roots and fruitful opposition to traditional AI style robotics. It is argued that these artificial systems are only partly 'situated' because they do not in the full sense of the word experience an Umwelt. A deeper understanding of truly situated autonomous systems as being a kind of complex selforganizing semiotic agents with emergent qualitative properties must be gained, not only from the broad field of theoretical biology, but also from the perspective of biosemiotics in the Uexküll tradition. The paper is thus an investigation of a new notion of autonomy that includes a qualitative aspect of the organism. This indicates that the Umwelt concept is not reducible to purely functional notions. (shrink)
Prompted by the thesis that an organism’s umwelt possesses not just a descriptive dimension, but a normative one as well, some have sought to annex semiotics with ethics. Yet the pronouncements made in this vein have consisted mainly in rehearsing accepted moral intuitions, and have failed to concretely further our knowledge of why or how a creature comes to order objects in its environment in accordance with axiological charges of value or disvalue. For want of a more explicit account, (...) theorists writing on the topic have relied almost exclusively on semiotic insights about perception originally designed as part of a sophisticated refutation of idealism. The end result, which has been a form of direct givenness, has thus been far from convincing. In an effort to bring substance to the right-headed suggestion that values are rooted in the biological and conform to species-specific requirements, we present a novel conception that strives to make explicit the elemental structure underlying umwelt normativity. Building and expanding on the seminal work of Ayn Rand in metaethics, we describe values as an intertwined lattice which takes a creature’s own embodied life as its ultimate standard; and endeavour to show how, from this, all subsequent valuations can in principle be determined. (shrink)
Capturing information means for every organism acquiring knowledge about the living and not living objects that exist in its surroundings. In this way, the “historical” concept of Umwelt, as a subjective surrounding has been recently integrated in the theory of landscape ecology where a landscape is not only a geographical entity but also a cognitive medium. The landscape may be considered a semiotic context used by the organisms to locate resources heterogeneously distributed in space and time. In particular, inside (...) a landscape there are different eco-fields defined as spatial arrangements of objects carrier of meaning that organisms utilize to track resources. Along this epistemic path the sonic component of the landscape is an important carrier of information commonly used by the majority of animal species to managing many vital functions. In particular birds, which are animals with a complex system of acoustic communication, seem to organize acoustic centers for public information. These sonic patterns (soundtopes) are characterized by a great variability in space and time and function like a special eco-field that allows species to share information about the status of resources and the dynamics of populations. The availability of such public information avoids a deeper and more expensive exploration of the environment to assess its quality. (shrink)
This article, which envelops a case study and development of umwelt theory, addresses four research questions: At what point does the human umweltemerge? What umwelt transitions can be identified in the ontogenesis of the early human umwelt? What is characteristic of the umwelt trajectory of human embryos/foetuses/infants? How are umwelt objects established/crystallized/fixated in the human umwelt?The early human umwelt is characterized by rapid change, radical transformations, and gradual establishment of the first and most (...) basic umwelt objects by wayof exploration and learning. While the human umwelt arguably emerges already at the embryonic stage, the sense-saturated umwelt emerges at the foetal stage. Unlike an adult human’s umwelt, but like other altricial umwelten, the umwelt of the human foetus and infant is not fully functional from the perspective of the organism itself. In other words, their basic functioning directly depends on others. Our human sociality is further stimulated by shared undertakings early on in our terrestrial lives which effectively make us part of some specific social system. (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)
In this paper I will sketch an Umwelt ethics, i.e., an ethics that rests heavily on fundamental features of Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory. In the course of an interpretation of the Umwelt theory, a number of concepts are introduced. These include ontological niche, common-Umwelt, total Umwelt and bio-ontological monad. I then present an Uexküllian reading of the deep ecology platform. It is suggested that loss of biodiversity, considered as a physio-phenomenal entity, is the most (...) crucial aspect of the ecological crisis, which can be understood as an ontological crisis. (shrink)
Le concept d' Umwelt est souvent considéré comme l'équivalent allemand du concept français de « milieu ». En revenant sur l' apparition du concept scientifique d' Umwelt au début du XXe siècle, nous souhaitons mettre en évidence sa genèse polémique et le fait qu'il est, contre toute attente, le résultat d'un rejet du concept de milieu. Pour le géographe F. Ratzel et le biologiste J. von Uexküll, ce concept était en effet indissociable de la théorie de Taine. Beaucoup (...) trop déterministe à leurs yeux, elle renforçait le monisme matérialiste qui se développait alors en Allemagne et auquel ils souhaitaient mettre un terme. (shrink)
In the paper an attempt is made to treat the basic concepts of biosemiotics and semiotics of culture in a wide intellectual context. The three leading paradigms of the current intellectual discourse are distinguished, which could be conventionally designated as “classical”, “modern” and “postmodern”: Peirce’s semiosis stands for the classical, Umwelt for the modern and semiosphere for the postmodern semiotic space.
In this essay I argue that Husserl’s development of the nineteenth century Natur/Geist distinction is grounded in the intentional correlate between the pre-theoretical natural attitude and environing world ( Umwelt ). By reconsidering the Natur/Geist distinction through its historical context in the nineteenth century debate between Wilhelm Dilthey and the Neo-Kantians from the Baden or Southwest school, it is possible to understand more clearly Husserl’s appropriations and novel contributions. One of Husserl’s contributions lies in his rigorous thematization and clarification (...) of the constitutive features proper to the natural and human sciences as they arise from the pre-theoretical experience of an environing world. This ordinary lived experience between the lived body and environing world is presupposed by and forms a unity with both Natur and Geist , thereby acting as the unified ground that is inclusive of naturalized Geist and a geistig nature. This unbuilding ( Abbau ) of the Natur/Geist distinction is necessary, according to Husserl, for the radical clarification of the respective methodologies of the natural and human sciences. (shrink)
Several language experiments have been carried out on apes and other animals aiming to narrow down the presumed qualitative gap that separates humans from other animals. These experiments, however, have been driven by the understanding of language as a purely symbolic sign system, often connected to a profound disinterest for language use in real situations and a propensity to perceive grammatical and syntactic information as the only fundamental aspects of human language. For these reasons, the language taught to apes tends (...) to discard iconic and indexical elements in favour of symbolic signs. This paper sheds light on the iconic components of human language, with close attention to the iconic properties of language as present in the ape language experiments. We emphasise the role of the body in the interpretation and production of iconic signs, while demonstrating the need to take into account the Umwelt theory in the research paradigm of the experiments. Uexküll’s Umwelt theory is used to exemplify the methodological problems connected to the teaching of human language to other animal species; furthermore, we discuss how the modelling capacities of language affect the biological layer that constitutes the animal Umwelt. Language is analysed as a particular case of Umwelt transition, and as such its implications are further discussed in the article. With this paper, we enrich the discussion surrounding the human-ape pidgin language by advocating for the need to include iconic components as vital parts of this research area. With this inclusion, we uncover the inter-dependency of iconic, indexical and symbolic signs in human language, aiming to further develop the research paradigm of the ape language experiments. (shrink)
Inspired by a mathematical ecology of thearre (M. Dinu) and the eco-grammar systems (E. Csuhaj-Varju et al.), this paper gives a brief analysis of simple cellular automata games in order to demonstrate their primary semiotic features. In particular, the behaviour of configurations in Conway's game of life is compared to several general features of Uexküll's concept of Umwelt. It is concluded that ecological processes have a fundamental semiotic dimension.
Cassirer’s philosophy of symbols is applied to Uexküll’s concept of “Umwelt”. I argue that the vast domain of human symbolism extends the human Umwelt far beyond the Umwelts of animal species. We humans live and act in many intersecting symbolic worlds, one of the most important of which is our ethical Umwelt. I claim that against the background of ecological disaster and the uncontrolled accelerating incursion of our financial institutions and biotechnological industry into planetary ecology, the term (...) “Umwelt” can no longer simply mean the part of our surroundings that is meaningful to us. Given the current severe ecological crisis, Cassirer’s idea of an “ethical Umwelt” must also be expanded, and an ethical imperative must be integrated into our understanding of “environment.” In other words, for us today the meaning of the term “Umwelt” or “meaningful environment” should be synonymous with “the living world to be saved” or “sacred environment.”. (shrink)
Prompted by the thesis that an organism’s umwelt possesses not just a descriptive dimension, but a normative one as well, some have sought to annexsemiotics with ethics. Yet the pronouncements made in this vein have consisted mainly in rehearsing accepted moral intuitions, and have failed to concretely further our knowledge of why or how a creature comes to order objects in its environment in accordance with axiological charges of value or disvalue. For want of a more explicit account, theorists (...) writing on the topic have relied almost exclusively on semiotic insights about perception originally designed as part of a sophisticated refutation of idealism. The end result, which has been a form of direct givenness, has thus been far from convincing. In an effort to bring substance to the right-headed suggestion that values are rooted in the biological and conform to species-specific requirements, we present a novel conception that strives to make explicit the elemental structure underlying umwelt normativity. Building and expanding on the seminal work of Ayn Rand in metaethics, we describe values as an intertwined lattice which takes a creature’s own embodied life as its ultimate standard; and endeavour to show how, from this, all subsequent valuations can in principle be determined. (shrink)
Die Beiträge dieses Bandes untersuchen die Logik schwieriger Grenzziehungen im Umwelt- und Technikrecht aus juristischer, philosophischer, sozial- und ingenieurswissenschaftlicher Perspektive. Sie sind aus der interdisziplinären Tagung "Unscharfe Grenzen im Umwelt- und Technikrecht" hervorgegangen, die im März 2011 an der RWTH Aachen stattgefunden hat.
Departing from estimations of existential universes of animals and humans, this paper observes a number of views on the subjective experience, or modelling systems of reality, developed in the philosophy of nature and culture. The first part examines how the semantic relationships of nonhuman and human organisms with their environments are outlined in phenomenology as a study of individual experience from a subject-oriented perspective. Respectively, animals are admitted to have meaningful relations with actual things in observable reality through an outward (...) extension of their bodies, but they are stated to lack direct access to things in themselves and to their various forms of being, because they cannot transcend the imprisonment in their surroundings. In the second part, exposing the mundane background of semiotic phenomenology, the existence modes of animal and human subjects are considered in terms of being-in-the-world as immanence and being-for-the-world as transcendence. Immanent subjects are seen as existing in their environments and transcendent subjects as being able to go beyond their Lebenswelten. In keeping with positively marked or unmarked interpretations of existence and life in the subjective universes of humans and animals, made by other philosophers and psychologists, the author arrives at a conclusion that the extension of the study of reality and the world might enrich the framework of existential semiotics if the organisms’ relations to the world they dwell in were considered from the viewpoint of their becoming in the world and the becoming of the world as a result of their interactions. (shrink)