Is the tick a machine or a machine operator? Is it a mere object or a subject? With these questions, the pioneering biophilosopher Jakob von Uexkull embarks on a remarkable exploration of the unique social and physical environments that individual animal species, as well as individuals within species, build and inhabit. This concept of the umwelt has become enormously important within posthumanist philosophy, influencing such figures as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, and, most recently, Giorgio Agamben, who has called Uexkull "a high point of modern antihumanism."
A key document in the genealogy of posthumanist thought, "A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans" advances Uexkull's revolutionary belief that nonhuman perceptions must be accounted for in any biology worth its name; it also contains his arguments against natural selection as an adequate explanation for the present orientation of a species' morphology and behavior. "A Theory of Meaning" extends his thinking on the "umwelt," while also identifying an overarching and perceptible unity in nature. Those coming to Uexkull's work for the first time will find that his concept of the "umwelt" holds out new possibilities for the terms of animality, life, and the whole framework of biopolitics itself.