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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 29, Issue 2, 2001

Marlen Tonnessen
Pages 683-690

Outline of an Uexküllian bio-ontology

Traditionally, ontology, or at least western ontology, bas been an anthropocentric enterprise, that takes only human experiences into account. In this paper I argue that a prolific biocentric ontology can be based on UexkülI's Umwelt theory. UexkülI offers the basis of an ontology according to which the study of experiences is a much wider field than it is as depicted by classical ontology and contemporary philosophy of consciousness. Based on the thoughts of the contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel I claim that there might very well be Iifeforms that are totally unimaginable to us. I argue that this view is compatible with the Umwelt theory, and that it should be adopted by biosemioticians. Furthermore, I argue that a biosemiotic possibilism should be implemented. Followingly, one should not claim to know which characteristics of living beings are universally and necessarily valid, but restrict oneself to statements about life as we know it.

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