Jakob von Uexküll: A Foray Into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds (1934–) [DE, EN, FR]

22 March 2014, dusan

“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.

German edition
With illustrations by George Kriszat
Publisher J. Springer, Berlin, 1934, 102 pages
New edition, with the essay “Bedeutungslehre”, with a Foreword by Adolf Portmann, Rowohlt, Hamburg, 1956, 182 pages

English edition
Translated by Claire H. Schiller
In Instinctive Behavior: The Development of a Modern Concept, pp 5-80
Publisher International Universities Press, New York, 1957
Reprinted in Semiotica 89(4), 1992, pp 319-391

New English edition, with the essay “A Theory of Meaning”
Translated by Joseph D. O’Neil
Introduction by Dorion Sagan
Afterword by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Publisher University of Minnesota Press, 2010
Posthumanities series, 12
ISBN 9780816658992
272 pages

Commentary (Levi R. Bryant, 2010)
Review (Robert Geroux, Humanimalia, 2012)
Review (Franklin Ginn, Science as Culture, 2013)

Publisher (EN)
Google books (EN)

Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen (German, 1934)
Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen. Bedeutungslehre (German, 1934/1956)
A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men (English, trans. Claire H. Schiller, 1957)
A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men (English, trans. Claire H. Schiller, 1957/1992)
Mondes animaux et monde humain suivi de La théorie de la signification (French, trans. Philippe Muller, 1965)
A Foray Into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, with a Theory of Meaning (English, trans. Joseph D. O’Neil, 2010), Alt link

See also chapters 10-11 of Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal: Umwelt; Tick (2002/2004)

Moles, Baudrillard, Boudon, van Lier, Wahl, Morin: Les objets (1969/71) [French, Spanish]

14 March 2014, dusan

Communications is a biannual social sciences journal founded by Georges Friedmann, Roland Barthes, and Edgar Morin. Soon after its start in 1961 it became a reference publication for media studies and semiotics in France and internationally.

Its first 1969 issue was dedicated to the theory of objects, positioning it “at the confluence of sociology, political economy, social psychology, marketing, philosophy, design and aesthetics” (p 141). At the same time the journal argued for the relevance of the study of objects for governmental institutions such as “the Ministry of Industrial Production, the Ministry of Transport, the customs authorities, the courts, the counterfeits studies, or the National Industrial Property Institute” (p 141).

It can be read as a post-May 1968 attempt to use the concept of object as an agent linking social sciences in order to increase their impact on direct political change, and as well as an early echo of what more than a decade later came to be known as the actor-network theory.

Two years later the magazine appeared in its Spanish translation in book form.

Communications 13
Publisher Centre d’études des communications de masse, École pratique des hautes études, and Seuil, Paris, 1969
139 pages

Les objets (French, 1969), View online
Los objetos (Spanish, trans. Silvia Delpy, 1971/1974)

Semiotext(e) Vol. 3, No. 1: Nietzsche’s Return (1978)

8 December 2013, dusan

With contributions by Georges Bataille, John Cage, Daniel Charles, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, François Fourquet, Lee Hildreth, Denis Hollier, Kenneth King, Pierre Klossowski, James Leigh, Sylvère Lotringer, Jean-François Lyotard, Roger McKeon, Daniel Moshenberg and John Rajchman.

Edited by Sylvère Lotringer
Publisher Semiotext(e), Inc., New York
ISSN 0093-9579
157 pages
via esco_bar

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See also Semiotext(e), Vol 3, No 2: Schizo-Culture (1978)

David Aubin: A Cultural History of Catastrophes and Chaos: Around the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, France 1958-1980 (1998)

31 October 2013, dusan

“This is the story of a group of scientists who, in the local context of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS), France, contributed to the elaboration of catastrophe theory and deterministic chaos theory. Starting with a study of the role of Bourbaki’s mathematics on the French intellectual scene (and especially with respect to structuralism), this dissertation examines the resources from topology, embryology, and linguistics used by René Thom to construct catastrophe theory.

It describes the foundation of the IHÉS by Léon Motchane in 1958 and the ideology of fundamental research that shaped it. It reviews the history of structural stability for differential equations, focusing on the work of Aleksandr Andronov and Solomon Lefschetz, among others, and the synthesis achieved in the 1960s by Stephen Smale at the University of California, Berkeley. These mathematical developments were used by Thom to develop new modeling practices. The IHÉS, which welcomed topologists such as E. Christopher Zeeman and Ralph Abraham, played a role in developing modeling practices based on recent advances in topology. A physics professor at the IHÉS, David Ruelle, together with Dutch mathematician Floris Takens, adapted the modeling practices of these ‘applied topologists’ and proposed a mechanism for the onset of turbulence, thereby introducing the concept of strange attractors. Looking at the history of fluid mechanics, I argue that Ruelle’s work displaced earlier emphases on fundamental laws, like the Navier-Stokes equations, and focused on the modes of representation rather than representations themselves. A certain Bourbakization of physics and the advent of the computer shaped this evolution.

Finally, focusing on convention, and taking the Rayleigh-Bénard system as a boundary system, various communities’ responses to the Ruelle-Takens model are examined, in particular hydrodynamic stability theorists, phase transition physicists and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes’s group, and chemical physicists orbiting Ilya Prigogine. Prior interest in developing interdisciplinary approaches for the study of turbulence helped the adaptation of a dynamical systems approach for the study of natural phenomena, greatly inspired by the work of Smale, Thom, and Ruelle.” (Abstract)

Ph. D. thesis
Princeton University
782 pages

Download (the final section “Sources and Bibliography” is missing; no OCR)
Download (PDF chapters, from the author’s publications page)

Brian Rotman: Becoming Beside Ourselves: The Alphabet, Ghosts, and Distributed Human Being (2008)

13 October 2013, dusan

Becoming Beside Ourselves continues the investigation that the renowned cultural theorist and mathematician Brian Rotman began in his previous books Signifying Nothing and Ad Infinitum…The Ghost in Turing’s Machine: exploring certain signs and the conceptual innovations and subjectivities that they facilitate or foreclose. In Becoming Beside Ourselves, Rotman turns his attention to alphabetic writing or the inscription of spoken language. Contending that all media configure what they mediate, he maintains that alphabetic writing has long served as the West’s dominant cognitive technology. Its logic and limitations have shaped thought and affect from its inception until the present. Now its grip on Western consciousness is giving way to virtual technologies and networked media, which are reconfiguring human subjectivity just as alphabetic texts have done for millennia.

Alphabetic texts do not convey the bodily gestures of human speech: the hesitations, silences, and changes of pitch that infuse spoken language with affect. Rotman suggests that by removing the body from communication, alphabetic texts enable belief in singular, disembodied, authoritative forms of being such as God and the psyche. He argues that while disembodied agencies are credible and real to “lettered selves,” they are increasingly incompatible with selves and subjectivities formed in relation to new virtual technologies and networked media. Digital motion-capture technologies are restoring gesture and even touch to a prominent role in communication. Parallel computing is challenging the linear thought patterns and ideas of singularity facilitated by alphabetic language. Barriers between self and other are breaking down as the networked self is traversed by other selves to become multiple and distributed, formed through many actions and perceptions at once. The digital self is going plural, becoming beside itself.

With a Foreword by Timothy Lenoir
Publisher Duke University Press, 2008
ISBN 0822342006, 9780822342007
176 pages

Commentary (Ben Pritchett, Mute)
Review (Stevan Harnad, Times Literary Supplement)

Publisher
Google books

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