Advertisement

Biosemiotics

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 437–447 | Cite as

“Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory

  • Jonathan BeeverEmail author
  • Morten Tønnessen
Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Uexküll Umwelt Ethics German English Biology Culture 

References

  1. Acampora, R.R. (2013). The (proto-)ethical significance of semiosis: when and how does one become somebody who matters? In K. Tüür and M. Tønnessen (Eds.), The Semiotics of animal representations (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi), forthcoming.Google Scholar
  2. Augustyn, P. (2009). Translating Jakob von Uexküll – Reframing Umweltlehre as biosemiotics. Sign Systems Studies, 37.1(2), 281–298.Google Scholar
  3. Beever, J. (2012). Meaning matters: the biosemiotic basis of bioethics. Biosemiotics, 5(2), 181–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Champagne, M. (2011). Axiomatizing Umwelt normativity. Sign Systems Studies, 39(1), 9–59.Google Scholar
  5. Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex (1st ed.). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  6. Favareau, D. (Ed.). (2010). Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Harrington, A. (1999). Reenchanted science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hoffmeyer, J. (1995). Biosemiotics and ethics. In V. Shiva and I. Moser (Eds.), Biopolitics: A feminist and ecological reader on biotechnology (141–161). London: Zed.Google Scholar
  9. Kull, K. (2001). Biosemiotics and the problem of intrinsic value of nature. Sign Systems Studies, 29(1), 353–365.Google Scholar
  10. Kull, K., Deacon, T., Emmeche, C., Hoffmeyer, J., & Stjernfelt, F. (2009). Theses on biosemiotics: prolegomena to a theoretical biology. Biological Theory, 4(2), 167–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Rüting, T. (2004). History and significance of Jakob von Uexküll and of his institute in Hamburg. Sign System Studies, 32.1(2), 35–72.Google Scholar
  12. Sebeok, T. (1979). Neglected figures in the history of semiotic inquiry: Jakob von Uexküll. The sign and its masters (186207). Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  13. Sebeok, T. (1998). The Estonian connection. Sign Systems Studies, 26, 20–41.Google Scholar
  14. Stella, M., & Kleisner, K. (2010). Uexküllian Umwelt as science and as ideaology: the light and the dark side of a concept. Theoretical Biology, 129, 39–51.Google Scholar
  15. Tønnessen, M. (2003). Umwelt ethics. Sign Systems Studies, 31(1), 281–299.Google Scholar
  16. von Uexküll, J. (1913). Bausteine zu einer biologischen Weltanschauung. München: F. Bruckmann A.-G.Google Scholar
  17. von Uexküll, J. (1917). Darwin und die Englische Moral. Deutsche Rundschau, 173, 215–242.Google Scholar
  18. von Uexküll, J. (1919). Der Organismus als Staat und der Staat als Organismus. Der Leuchter: 79–110.Google Scholar
  19. von Uexküll, J. (1920a). Theoretische Biologie (1st ed.). Berlin: Verlag von Gebrüder Paetel.Google Scholar
  20. von Uexküll, J. (1920b). Staatsbiologie (Anatomie-Physiologie-Pathologie des Staates). Berlin: Verlag von Gebrüder Paetel. Special Issue of Deutsche Rundschau.Google Scholar
  21. von Uexküll, J. (1921). Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere (2nd ed.). Berlin: J. Springer.Google Scholar
  22. von Uexküll, J. (1925). Die Biologie des Staates. Nationale Erziehung, 6(7–8), 177–181.Google Scholar
  23. von Uexküll, J. (1926). Theoretical biology. Trans. of Uexküll 1920a by D. L. MacKinnon. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, Inc.Google Scholar
  24. von Uexküll, J. (1928). Theoretische Biologie (2st edition – “gänzl. neu bearb. Aufl.”, i.e. “entirely new, revised edition”). Berlin: J. Springer.Google Scholar
  25. von Uexküll, J. (1933). Staatsbiologie: Anatomie-Physiologie-Pathologie des Staates. Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt.Google Scholar
  26. von Uexküll, J. (1934). Die Universitäten als Sinnesorgane des Staates. Ärzteblatt für Sachsen, Provinz Sachsen, Anhalt und Thüringen, 1(13), 145–146.Google Scholar
  27. von Uexküll, J. (1936). Niegeschaute Welten. Die Umwelten meiner Freunde. Ein Erinnerungsbuch. Berlin: S. Fischer. 304 pages. Reprinted 1957.Google Scholar
  28. von Uexküll, J. (1957). A stroll through the worlds of animals and men. In: Schiller, C. H. (Ed. and transl.), Instinctive behavior: The development of a modern concept (5–80). New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  29. von Uexküll, J. (1982). The theory of meaning. Semiotica, 42(1), 25–82.Google Scholar
  30. von Uexküll, J. (2010). A foray into the worlds of animals and humans with a theory of meaning. Trans. of Uexküll 1956 [1934, 1940] by Joseph D. O’Neil. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.Google Scholar
  31. von Uexküll J., Kriszat, G. (1956 [1934, 1940]). Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre. Mit einem Vorwort von Adolf Portmann. Hamburg: Rowohlt.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Weldon School of Biomedical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health StudiesUniversity of StavangerStavangerNorway

Personalised recommendations