Uexküll and contemporary biology: Some methodological reconsiderations
Philosophical anthropology and philosophical biology were both very powerful and influential movements in the German academic discussion of the early 20th century. Starting with a similar conceptual background (particularly with reference to Hans Driesch’s bio-Aristotelism) they aimed at a synthetic philosophy of nature, which was supposed to include human nature into the realm of a monist description of nature itself. Within this field of biophilosophical reasoning, Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of organism and his theoretical biology hold a central place. In this paper, Uexküll’s theoretical biology is reconsidered as a resumption and reformulation of a theory of knowledge from a “Kantian” provenience. Its specific structure as a generalized theory of knowledge is reconstructed and the pitfalls of a biological interpretation of the condition of the possibility of knowledge are outlined. The theory of organism is reconstructed as a centrepiece of Uexküll’s approach. The last section of this paper presents a proposal of engineering morphology which allows the full application of Uexküll’s insights into the relativity of organismic constitution. The usefulness of functional modeling for evolutionary reconstructions on the basis of a theory of organism of uexküllian type and its relevance for biological research is evaluated.