Seminar with Dr Florence Chiew: An ecology of ideas with Uexküll and Bateson

Dr Florence Chiew (Macquarie University, Sydney)

Wednesday, 30 May 2018, 12:00 – 13:30

12.21 & 12.25 Social Sciences Building

This paper brings into conversation the writings of Baltic German biologist Jakob von Uexküll and English anthropologist and polymath Gregory Bateson. Notwithstanding important differences, both thinkers share a fascination with the questions of intersubjectivity, animal communication and the interplay between organism and environment. Embodying a sense of the ecological that is very much ahead of their time, Uexküll and Bateson encourage a deeper appreciation of perception as always already enfolded in what is perceived. In their writings, we witness a fundamental indivisibility of mind and nature, organism and environment. For Uexküll, the notion of umwelt captures the experiences of an organism immersed in a species-specific world. For Bateson, the catchphrase ‘ecology of mind’ complicates the routine assumption that ideas originate in the human mind and, by implication, that there is a break between the workings of the mind and those of the world. This paper explores the possible conceptual and methodological innovations, as well as pedagogical implications, that emerge from reading Uexküll and Bateson alongside each other.