“Is the tick a machine or a machine operator? Is it a mere object or a subject?” With these questions, the pioneering biophilosopher Jakob von Uexküll embarks on a remarkable exploration of the unique social and physical environments that individual animal species, as well as individuals within species, build and inhabit. This concept of the umwelt has become enormously important within posthumanist philosophy, influencing such figures as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, and, most recently, Giorgio Agamben, who has called Uexküll “a high point of modern antihumanism.” A key document in the genealogy of posthumanist thought, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans advances Uexküll’s revolutionary belief that nonhuman perceptions must be accounted for in any biology worth its name; it also contains his arguments against natural selection as an adequate explanation for the present orientation of a species’ morphology and behavior. A Theory of Meaning extends his thinking on the umwelt, while also identifying an overarching and perceptible unity in nature. Those coming to Uexküll’s work for the first time will find that his concept of the umwelt holds new possibilities for the terms of animality, life, and the framework of biopolitics.
Kari Weil provides a critical introduction to the field of animal studies as well as an appreciation of its thrilling acts of destabilization. Examining real and imagined confrontations between human and nonhuman animals, she charts the presumed lines of difference between human beings and other species and the personal, ethical, and political implications of those boundaries. Weil's considerations recast the work of such authors as Kafka, Mann, Woolf, and Coetzee, and such philosophers as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, Agamben, Cixous, and Hearne, while incorporating the aesthetic perspectives of such visual artists as Bill Viola, Frank Noelker, and Sam Taylor-Wood and the "visual thinking" of the autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin. She addresses theories of pet keeping and domestication; the importance of animal agency; the intersection of animal studies, disability studies, and ethics; and the role of gender, shame, love, and grief in shaping our attitudes toward animals. Exposing humanism's conception of the human as a biased illusion, and embracing posthumanism's acceptance of human and animal entanglement, Weil unseats the comfortable assumptions of humanist thought and its species-specific distinctions.
Embodied experience and sensorial understandings in Western music The Western history of aesthetics is characterised by tension between theory and practice. Musicians listen, play, and then listen more profoundly in order to play differently, adapt the body, and sense the environment. They become deeply involved in the sensorial qualities of music practice. Artistic practice refers to the original meaning of aesthetics—the senses. Whereas Baumgarten and Goethe explored the relationship between sensibility and reason, sensation and thinking, later philosophers of aesthetics deemed the sensorial to be confused and unreliable and instead prioritised a cognitive or objective approach. Written by authors from the fields of philosophy, composition, performance, and artistic practice, Sensorial Aesthetics in Music Practices repositions aesthetics as a domain of the sensible and explores the interaction between artists, life, and environment. Aesthetics becomes a field of sensorial and embodied experience involving temporal and spatial influences, implicit knowledge, and human characteristics. Contributors: Kathleen Coessens (Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel, Orpheus Institute), Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen), Michaël Levinas (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris), Fabien Lévy (Hochschule für Musik Detmold), Lasse Thoresen (Norwegian Academy of Music), Vanessa Tomlinson (Queensland Conservatorium of Music), Salomé Voegelin (University of the Arts London)
The Poet as Phenomenologist: Rilke and the New Poems opens up new perspectives on the relation between Rilke's poetry and phenomenological philosophy, illustrating the ways in which poetry can offer an exceptional response to the philosophical problem of dualism. Drawing on the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, Luke Fischer makes a new contribution to the tradition of phenomenological poetics and expands the debate among Germanists concerning the phenomenological status of Rilke's poetry, which has been severely limited to comparisons of Rilke and Husserl. Fischer explicates an implicit phenomenology of perception in Rilke's writings from his middle period (1902-1910). He argues that Rilke cultivated an artistic perception that, in a philosophically significant manner, overcomes the opposition between the sensuous and the intelligible while simultaneously transcending the boundaries of philosophy. Fischer offers novel interpretations of central poems from Rilke's Neue Gedichte (1907) and Der neuen Gedichte anderer Teil (1908) and frames them as the ultimate articulation of Rilke's non-dualistic vision. He thus demonstrates the continuity between Rilke and phenomenology while arguing that poetry, in this case, provides the most adequate response to a philosophical problem.
Drawing on recent theories of digital media and on the materiality of words and images, this fascinating study makes three original claims about the work of William Blake. First, Blake offers a critique of digital media. His poetry and method of illuminated printing is directed towards uncovering an analogical language. Second, Blake's work can be read as a performative. Finally, Blake's work is at one and the same time immanent and transcendent, aiming to return all forms of divinity and the sacred to the human imagination, stressing that 'all deities reside in the human breast,' but it also stresses that the human has powers or potentials that transcend experience and judgement: deities reside in the human breast. These three claims are explored through the concept of incarnation: the incarnation of ideas in words and images, the incarnation of words in material books and their copies, the incarnation of human actions and events in bodies, and the incarnation of spirit in matter.
To date, philosophical discussions of animal ethics and Critical Animal Studies have been dominated by Western perspectives and Western thinkers. This book makes a novel contribution to animal ethics in showing the range and richness of ideas offered to these fields by diverse Asian traditions. Asian Perspectives on Animal Ethics is the first of its kind to include the intersection of Asian and European traditions with respect to human and nonhuman relations. Presenting a series of studies focusing on specific Asian traditions, as well as studies that put those traditions in dialogue with Western thinkers, this book looks at Asian philosophical doctrines concerning compassion and nonviolence as these apply to nonhuman animals, as well as the moral rights and status of nonhuman animals in Asian traditions. Using Asian perspectives to explore ontological, ethical and political questions, contributors analyze humanism and post-humanism in Asian and comparative traditions and offer insight into the special ethical relations between humans and other particular species of animals. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of Asian religion and philosophy, as well as to those interested in animal ethics and Critical Animal Studies.
The term ‘systems theory’ is used to characterize a set of disparate yet related approaches to fields as varied as information theory, cybernetics, biology, sociology, history, literature, and philosophy. What unites each of these traditions of systems theory is a shared focus on general features of systems and their fundamental importance for diverse areas of life. Yet there are considerable differences among these traditions, and each tradition has developed its own methodologies, journals, and forms of anaylsis. This book explores this terrain and provides an overview of and guide to the traditions of systems theory in their considerable variety. The book draws attention to the traditions of systems theory in their historical development, especially as related to the humanities and social sciences, and shows how from these traditions various contemporary developments have ensued. It provides a guide for strains of thought that are key to understanding 20th century intellectual life in many areas.
The Discovery of the Umwelt between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology
Author: Carlo Brentari
The book is a comprehensive introduction to the work of the Estonian-German biologist Jakob von Uexküll. After a first introductory chapter by Morten Tønnessen and a second chapter on Uexküll's life and philosophical background, it contains four chapters devoted to the analysis of his main works. They are followed by a vast eighth chapter which deals with the influence Uexküll had on other philosophers and scientists. Finally, the author discloses his conclusions, focused on the possibility of updating Uexküll’s work. As far as the key issue is concerned, the Uexküllian Umwelt is the perceptive and operative world which surrounds animal species; it is a subjective species-specific construction which provides living organisms with great security and behaviour stability. The relationship that the animal carries out with its environment is a complex system of semiotic interactions: its behaviour is not a set of mechanical reactions, but a spontaneous attribution of meaning to the outside world.
Despite their conceptual allergy to vegetal life, philosophers have used germination, growth, blossoming, fruition, reproduction, and decay as illustrations of abstract concepts; mentioned plants in passing as the natural backdrops for dialogues, letters, and other compositions; spun elaborate allegories out of flowers, trees, and even grass; and recommended appropriate medicinal, dietary, and aesthetic approaches to select species of plants. In this book, Michael Marder illuminates the vegetal centerpieces and hidden kernels that have powered theoretical discourse for centuries. Choosing twelve botanical specimens that correspond to twelve significant philosophers, he recasts the development of philosophy through the evolution of human and plant relations. A philosophical history for the postmetaphysical age, The Philosopher's Plant reclaims the organic heritage of human thought. With the help of vegetal images, examples, and metaphors, the book clears a path through philosophy's tangled roots and dense undergrowth, opening up the discipline to all readers.