Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ecological metaphysics and the philosophy of organism

Knowledge Ecology blog has an interesting post up (within a series of posts) concerning ecological metaphysics and the philosophy of organism.  I had a student tell me I ought to check out the post given that it looks like we will, afterall, add a short three to four week reading group to take place before our Metaphysics of Animal Rights reading group that begins early August.  Originally planning to cover essays by only Dewey and Whitehead, I am thinking to simply re-title the reading group The Philosophy of Organism and cover one or two essays by each of Dewey, Whitehead, and Merleau-Ponty, closing with Merleau-Ponty on von Uexkull.  So no more than four to six short essays or short book excerpts in total covering those figures' ecological metaphysics and theory of organism.

In any case here are some highlights from the post:
The subject-concept relation is ecological insofar as the concept has a symbiotic relation to the subject that both displaces and creates new conceptual capacities. To be more specific, and to repeat my phrasing from the earlier posts, learning initiates a symbiosis between subject and concept that ends in the merging of the concept with the subject and of the transformation of the subject through its understanding of the concept.
Uexküll suggests that the forms of experience are species-specific, constituting a diversity of modes of possible experience that render space, time, and motion relative to each organism, and where the appearance of each are related to an organism’s organization as a dynamic and living body. 
These forms of experience constitute what Uexküll famously calls the “umwelt,” “appearance-world,” “surrounding-world,” “world-picture,” or “dwelling-world” of each organism. For Uexküll embodiment is thus the site of any transcendental form of experience. Each organism is a center of experience, just as each cell within each organism forms its own center of experience. As a center of centers, and as a center among other centers, the organism emerges at the intersection of a multiplicity of appearance. 
Mind is life, as Evan Thompson might say. The organism is, from this view, the factor who organizes space and time into a particular qualitative arrangement and is that which appears as a certain kind of meaning carrier within the appearance-world of another organism. The take away is that just as there is an ecological symbiosis playing out at the subject-concept level (as I argued in my previous posts), so too is there is a symbiosis playing out at the subject-meaning level, and this relation has important consequences for how we think about evolutionary processes. 
[I]n Uexküll’s ethological approach space, time, and motion are the variable forms of organismic intuition, an insight which calls forth the aesthetic nature of the ecological arena. Here we can see that Kant’s error was to focus too narrowly on one kind of transcendental ego — the human being — at the expense of all other species. Deepening Kant via Noë and Uexküll, then, we can see that aesthetic formulations of meaning, value, and significance are causal and necessary factors in evolutionary processes, and that any attempt to evacuate the enacted ecology of meaning that surrounds every organism undercuts the very mode by which evolution has transpired since the emergence of life on Earth. In other words, ecology is necessarily about transactions of meaning, translations of value, and transformations of significance, and it is in principle irreducible to mechanical description alone.
Read the full post HERE.