Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology1

  • Morten Tønnessen
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 110)


German-Baltic biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) did not regard himself as a phenomenologist. Neither did he conceive of himself as a semiotician. Nevertheless, his Umwelt terminology has of late been utilized and further developed within the framework of semiotics and various other disciplines – and, as I will argue, essential points in his work can fruitfully be taken to represent a distinctive Uexküllian phenomenology, characterized not least by an assumption of the (in the realm of life) universal existence of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds. Uexküllian phenomenology is an example of – a special case of – a semiotics of being, taken to be a study of signs designed so as to emphasize the reality of the phenomena of the living. In the course of this paper, I will relate Uexküllian phenomenology to the eco-existentialism of Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899–1990), eco-phenomenology (including David Abram and Ted Toadvine), and semiotics of nature (biosemiotics, ecosemiotics, zoosemiotics). I will further make a few remarks on the partial resemblance between Uexküllian phenomenology and Tymieniecka’s “phenomenology of life”, and its difference from the “phaneroscopy” of Peirce.


Phenomenal Experience Life World Phenomenal World Phenomenological Reduction Husserlian Phenomenology 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SemioticsInstitute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of TartuTartuEstonia

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