, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 149–170 | Cite as

The Book of Desire: Toward a Biological Poetics

Original Paper


In this chapter I propose to understand the current paradigm shift in biology as the origination of a biology of subjects. A description of living beings as experiencing selves has the potential to transform the current mechanistic approach of biology into an embodied-hermeneutic one, culminating in a poetics of nature. We are at the right moment for that: The findings of complex systems research, autopoiesis theory, and evolutionary developmental biology are converging into a picture where the living can not longer be described in terms of causal mechanisms (as is, e. g., the Watson-Crick “central dogma”). Instead, organisms bring forth themselves physically and thereby generate a hermeneutic standpoint, interpreting external and internal stimuli interfering with their auto-creation according to embodied values. This can be observed empirically during embryonic develoment, where genetic instructions do not act as orders, but rather as perturbations being interpreted by an auto-maintaining developmental centre. The notion of organic subjectivity opens the living realm to a hermeneutic perspective. Since any encounter has a meaning and is interpreted accordingly, it creates a perspective of innerness or self. This self experiences all external and internal stimuli as values. The innerness is coextensive with the material dimensions of biochemical processes as their other, or symbolic, side. By this process the subjective perspective of organisms is open to other’s experience. Meaning and value become visible, as they are generated in material, embodied form. Instead of being separate from nature as pure “mind” or “language”, man shares with any other being the same “conditio vitae” of experienced meaning and expressive feeling.


Embodied subjectivity Autopoiesis Embryonic development Innerness Values Interbeing Poetics of nature 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BerlinGermany

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