The Animal Environments of Uexkull, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze

By Brett Buchanan

Subjects: Environmental Philosophy, Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
Paperback : 9780791476123, 236 pages, July 2009
Hardcover : 9780791476116, 236 pages, November 2008

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

1. Jakob von Uexküll’s Theories of Life
Biography and Historical Background
Nature’s Conformity with Plan
Concluding Remarks

2. Marking a Path into the Environments of Animals
The Essential Approach to the Animal
Heidegger and the Biologists
Three Paths to the World

3. Disruptive Behavior: Heidegger and the Captivated Animal
The Worldless Stone
The Poor Animal
Three Bees and a Lark
Animal Morphology
A Shocking Wealth
A Fine Line in the Rupture of Time
An Affected Body

4. The Theme of the Animal Melody: Merleau-Ponty and the Umwelt
The Structure of Behavior
A Pure Wake, A Quiet Force
A Leaf of Being

5. The-Animal-Stalks-at-Five-O’clock: Deleuze’s Affection for Uexküll
Problematic Organisms
Uexküll’s Ethology of Affects
The Body without Organs, the Embryonic Egg, and Prebiotic Soup
Nature’s Refrain Sung across Milieus and Territories
The Animal Stalks

Conclusion: Uexküll and Us

Examines the significance of animal environments in contemporary continental thought.


German biologist Jakob von Uexküll focused on how an animal, through its behavioral relations, both impacts and is impacted by its own unique environment. Onto-Ethologies traces the influence of Uexküll's ideas on the thought of Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Gilles Deleuze, as they explore how animal behavior might be said to approximate, but also differ from, human behavior. It is the relation between animal and environment that interests Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze, and yet it is the differences in their approach to Uexküll (and to concepts such as world, body, and affect) that prove so fascinating. This book explores the ramifications of these encounters, including how animal life both broadens and deepens the ontological significance of their respective philosophies.

Brett Buchanan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Laurentian University.


"Brett Buchanan's Onto-Ethologies, which takes on the crucial task of elucidating the philosophical import of some Uexküllian concepts and tracking their fate in the work of three major later philosophers, is … both welcome and long overdue. " — Symposium

"…this is a subtle book, a welcome engagement with a renewed focus on certain strands of biophilosophies of the twentieth century, with a particular focus on animals at a time when the so-called 'animal question' is moving through a whole ream of different disciplines. " — Radical Philosophy

"Most interesting, perhaps, is Buchanan's conscious attempt to bridge continental philosophy with the sciences … This book will likely prove exciting for those interested in the environmental thinking of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze. " — Environmental Philosophy