lørdag 20. august 2011

Om Zappfe og Uexküll - fra "Semiotics of being and Uexküllian phenomenology"

Her følger utdrag fra min nettopp publiserte tidsskriftartikkel "Semiotics of being and Uexküllian phenomenology" (s. 327-340 i Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (red.) 2011: Phenomenology/Ontopoiesis Retrieving Geo-cosmic Horizons of Antiquity (= Analecta Husserliana 110:

On a personal note, it was in Peter Wessel Zapffe’s Norwegian language magnus opum On the Tragic (Om det tragiske) that I first encountered the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (Zapffe 1996 [1941]). Zapffe is one of the three classical ecophilosophers of Norway, along with deep ecologist Arne Næss (1913–2009), who also to some extent referred to the work of Uexküll. For Zapffe, Uexküll was the biologist, and thus important for carving out his “biosophy” – philosophy of biological wisdom. From Uexküll, Zapffe learnt that everything alive is fundamentally different from everything not alive (that which is alive is what matters), and that all that lives navigates along the lines of its interests. His infamous pessimism (Zapffeheld that humankind should voluntarily stop reproducing) lies in his take on what is characteristic of human interests and abilities. Claiming that we, as a species, are over-equipped in terms of consciousness, his analysis of cultural life amounted to a series of observations of the various ways in which we delude ourselves in order to escape if not our predicament, then at least our awareness of it.

The core contribution from Uexküll in Zapffe’s thought was the former’s view that in the case of animals, there is a harmonious relationship between ability and need. Zapffe’s philosophical innovation is his claim that this is not valid in the case of human beings. He thus establishes man as an exceptional creature in the living world (as have countless others, each in their own way). While the behaviour of most animals is more or less fixed, Zapffe observed, human behaviour is exceptionally unfixed – exceptionally plastic. More precisely, we have become fixed in being unfixed. Instead of having highly specialized limbs or organs, we have acquired an ability to apply tools and technology so as to extend our capabilities. We compensate for our bodily simplicity by innovations and armour. Over time, the specialization of labour and technology has gone so far that the development has long since spun out of control. The technological development is not regulated by any external force, but only by our own choices. Due to our near-global delusion, there is not much hope.

So far Zapffe. Honestly speaking, his portrait of the biological world is very biased, since he everywhere (except for in his humorous prose stories) emphasizes grief and misery and downplays delightful undertakings. He talked of a “brotherhood of suffering”, ranging from the amoeba to the dictator or artistic genius. Empathy or sympathy thus has a place in his worldview. But why not a “brotherhood of pure delight” as well?

Zapffe failed to see the true significance of Uexküll’s attribution of phenomenological status to other mindful creatures. He was the first major figure in Norwegian culture to call for conservation measures – but like Uexküll, he did not observe, or foresee that the apparent harmony between animal ability and need turns out not to be a timeless fact. In the case of endangered species in volatile ecological situations – such as our current situation – the abilities of any animal can prove to be insufficient to meet their needs. In short, Zapffe’s existentialism did not break with the tradition of focusing solely on the human existence, despite the fact that it – perhaps for the first time – incorporated the value of nature (though first of all for recreational purposes) in existentialist thought.
Se også bloggpost i Kardemomme Tidende, "Larry David angrepet av flått - i tidsskriftartikkel".

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