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Monday, 20 October 2008

Transcending Signs

Professor Eero Tarasti reports that his planned anthology 'Transcending Signs' is finally moving ahead, to be published by Mouton de Gruyter. I have, upon invitation, submitted a contribution, and it now appears that this might (in a thoroughly revised form) be published after all.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Umwelt Transitions

´Umwelt Transitions. Uexküll and Environmental Change´, as it now is named, will be published in No. 1, Volume 2 of Biosemiotics (April 2009).

Monday, 13 October 2008

Teleology in the Life Sciences

Me and some other Tartu biosemioticians are about to join an application for the research project ´Teleology in the Life sciences´ (2010-2014). We are thus joining an initiative from The History of Science Department of the University of Bari (Italy), aimed at an ESF (European Science Foundation) Research Networking Programme.

The project aims at ´investigating the wide literature concerning ... teleology in the life sciences produced in the last centuries in Europe´, by way of establishing ´a real interdisciplinary “observatory”, between history/philosophy of biology and the life sciences´.

Constituting an Estonian national research group in the project, we will (if successful) be obliged to organize and manage at least one meeting for the duration of the project, and attend at least three science meetings organized by groups of other countries.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Two new journal articles

My original article ´Umwelt Transition´ has been split in two, revised parts: ´Umwelt Transition: Uexküll and Environmental Change´ (submitted to Biosemiotics) and ´Notes toward a natural history of the phenomenal world´ (submitted to Journal of Environmental Philosophy).

The abstract (and motto) for the latter reads:

Notes toward a natural history of the phenomenal world

From the contemporary perspective of global warming and rapid environmental change, it seems obvious that there is something wrong with nature, for which human activity is to blame. Tracing the origin of the ecological crisis, it appears that this very idea is at the root of the problem – since, all through the ages, we have been ‘improving’ and taming nature as if there was something wrong with it from the very beginning.

Programme text; the seminar What’s wrong with nature?[1]


In this article, the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) is reviewed in light of modern findings related to environmental change – especially from macroevolution and anthropology – and related to eco-phenomenology. Uexküll’s thought is understood as a distinctive theory of phenomenology – an ‘Uexküllian phenomenology’, characterized by an assumption of the (in the realm of life) universal existence of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds. The ecological crisis is interpreted as an ontological crisis with historical roots in humankind’s domestication of animals and plants, which can be taken as archetypical for our attempted planet-scale taming of the wild.

Keywords Anthropology, domestication, economy, eco-phenomenology, ecosemiotics, natural history, tame/wild, Umwelt

[1] ‚What’s wrong with nature? An interdisciplinary seminar investigating human perceptions of nature and environmental change‘. Arranged in Tartu, January 25-26th, 2008, by The Jakob von Uexküll Center (Estonian Naturalists Society) in cooperation with Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu. Programme text by Riste Keskpaik and Morten Tønnessen.