Biosemiotics 1 (3):379-396 (2008)

On the basis of a comparative analysis of the biosemiotic work of Jakob von Uexküll and of various theories on biological holism, this article takes a look at the question: what is the status of a semiotic approach in respect to a holistic one? The period from 1920 to 1940 was the peak-time of holistic theories, despite the fact that agreement on a unified and accepted set of holistic ideas was never reached. A variety of holisms, dependent on the cultural and disciplinary contexts, is sketched here from the works of Jan Smuts, Adolf Meyer-Abich, John Scott Haldane, Kurt Goldstein, Alfred North Whitehead and Wolfgang Köhler. In contrast with his contemporary holists, who used the model of an organism as a unifying explanatory tool for all levels of reality, Jakob von Uexküll confined himself to disciplinary organicism by extending the borders of the definition of “organism” without any intention to surpass the borders of biology itself. The comparison reveals also a significant difference in the perspectives of Uexküll and his contemporary holists, a difference between a view from a subjective centre in contrast with an all-encompassing structural view. Uexküll’s theories are fairly near to J. S. Haldane’s interpretation of an organism as a coordinative centre, but even here their models do not coincide. Although biosemiotics and holistic biology have different theoretical starting points and research-goals, it is possible nonetheless to place them under one and the same doctrinal roof
Keywords Biosemiotics  Holism  Organicism  Reductionsm  Vitalism  von Uexküll
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DOI 10.1007/s12304-008-9021-5
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Vitalism as Pathos.Thomas Osborne - 2016 - Biosemiotics 9 (2):185-205.
Beyond Word: On the Semiotic Mechanisms.Kalevi Kull - 2014 - Biosemiotics 7 (3):465-470.

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