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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Philosophy, Ethics & Religion

Adolf Portmann A Thinker of Self-Expressive Life

Series: Biosemiotics Volume: 23
By: Filip Jaroš(Editor), Jiří Klouda(Editor)
273 pages, b/w photos, ccolour & b/w illustrations
Publisher: Springer Nature
Adolf Portmann
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  • Adolf Portmann ISBN: 9783030678128 Paperback Sep 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
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About this book

This edited volume is the first specialized book in English about the Swiss zoologist and anthropologist Adolf Portmann (1897-1982). It provides a clarification and update of Portmann's theoretical approach to the phenomenon of life, characterized by terms such as "inwardness" and "self-presentation." Portmann's concepts of secondary altriciality and the social uterus have become foundational in philosophical anthropology, providing a benchmark of the difference between humans and animals.

In its content, this book brings together two approaches: historical and philosophical analysis of Portmann's studies in the life sciences and application of Portmann's thought in the fields of biology, anthropology, and biosemiotics. Significant attention is also paid to the methodological implications of his intended reform of biology. Besides contributions from contemporary biologists, philosophers, and historians of science, this volume also includes a translation of an original essay by Portmann and a previously unpublished manuscript from his most remarkable English-speaking interpreter, philosopher Marjorie Grene.

Portmann's conception of life is unique in its focus on the phenomenal appearance of organisms. Confronted with the enormous amount of scientific knowledge being produced today, it is even clearer than it was during Portmann's lifetime that although biologists employ physical and chemical methods, biology itself is not (only) physics and chemistry. These exact methods must be applied according to what has meaning for living beings. If biology seeks to understand organisms as autonomous agents, it needs to take display and the interpretation of appearances as basic characteristics of life.

The topic of this book is significantly relevant to the disciplines of theoretical biology, philosophy, philosophical anthropology, and biosemiotics. The recent epigenetic turn in biology, acknowledging the interconnections between organismal development, morphology and communication, presents an opportunity to revisit Portmann's work and to reconsider and update his primary ideas in the contemporary context.


New Horizons in Biology Essay
Marjorie Grene's Essay

PART 1: Adolf Portmann in the Light of History: Antecedents, Contemporaries, and Followers
1. Adolf Portmann (1897-1982): Life, Roots, and Thoughts
2. Portmann and Jung: Eranos Meetings and Discussions of the Instinct-archetyp Relations
3. Appearance and Self-presentation: Goethe's Influence on Adolf Portmann's View of Biology

PART 2: Adolf Portmann as a Classic of Philosophical Anthropology
4. Die Grenze der Innerlichkeit. On Philosophical Background of Portmanns Theoretical Biology
5. Ptolemaic and Copernican Man

PART 3: Adolf Portmann as an Inspirator for Biosemiotics
6. Living Form Beyond Survival: The Functional Explanation of Life and its Limits
7. If What is Searched for is Not There: A Mismatch of the Animals' Cognitive Schemata and Environmental Affordances
8. Animal Communication and Human Culture: Portmann's View on Anthropological Difference
9. Self-domestication as a Source of Human Neoteny: Towards a Portmannian Perspective

PART 4: Adolf Portmann in the Light of Biological Aesthetics
10. Portmann's Aesthetic Morphology
11. Playing Appearances: Adolf Portmann's Legacy and Aesthetics

Customer Reviews


Filip Jaroš is an assistant professor at the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences, University of Hradec Kralove. He spent one year (2017/8) as a postdoc researcher at the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu. He obtained his PhD in theoretical and evolutionary biology at Charles University in Prague. His main scholarly interests include the biosocial philosophy of Adolf Portmann, human-animal communication and the problem of anthropological difference. Filip Jaroš is an Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biosemiotics and coedited a book about animal aesthetics, Krása a Zvíře: Studie o Vztahu Estetických a Etických Hodnot Zvířat [Beauty and the Beast: Essays on Aesthetic and Ethical Values of Animals, in Czech].

Jiří Klouda is an assistant professor at the First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague. He is also working on a research project at the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences, University Hradec Kralove. His research focuses on Continental philosophy, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of life sciences and topics concerning ancient Greek science, philosophy and literature. Among his most recent publications are Wilhelm Dilthey: Lived Experience and the Symbolical Productivity of the Body (In J. Parry, P. Allison, eds., Experiential Learning and Outdoor Education: Traditions of Practice and Philosophical Perspectives, Routledge 2020); Institution of Life in Gehlen and Merleau-Ponty (In Human Studies, 41, 2018, with J. Halak).

Series: Biosemiotics Volume: 23
By: Filip Jaroš(Editor), Jiří Klouda(Editor)
273 pages, b/w photos, ccolour & b/w illustrations
Publisher: Springer Nature
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