, 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


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.


Uexküll Umwelt Ethics German English Biology Culture 


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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

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