Biosemiotics and Umwelt Theory

We now trace an interesting development from the early 20th Century, which we might describe as Neo-Kantian.  We begin by considering the origin of the phenomenal world of immediate experience (a rhetorical circumlocution that gestures vaguely at something we desperately want to talk about but can’t point to), and its relation to the sensorimotor embedding of an organism in its environment.  This leads to the recognition that humans inhabit human worlds, earthworms inhabit earthworm worlds, and so on. Where many approaches begin by assuming the constancy of the world, and then trying to work back to a perceiving subject, here the term “world” is destabilized by fixing the subject in the body.

We are fortunate to have Elmo (Tim) Feiten join us in class. So please make sure to do both readings to maximise the value of the discussion!

More resources:

Thomas Nagel’s famous 1974 essay: What is it like to be a bat

Sharkey (2001). A stroll through the worlds of robots and animals: Applying Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of meaning to adaptive robots and artificial life. Semiotica 134, 701-746.

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