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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 32, Issue 1/2, 2004

Tobias Cheung
Pages 139-166

From protoplasm to Umwelt
Plans and the technique of nature in Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of organismic order

For Uexküll, biology is the science of the organization of living beings. In the context of Entwicklungsmechanik, he refers to Driesch’s and Spemann’s experiments on the development of embryonic germ cells to prove that self-differentiating processes constitute organisms as natural objects. Uexküll focuses on the theory of such self-differentiating processes or organizations. The notion of organization implies for him a “technique of nature” that is capable of structuring organic and inorganic material according to plans and rules. These plans and rules are part of the overall order of the world. As preformed sign systems or codes, they determine and regulate the development and existence of individual animal subjects in their specific Umwelten.

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