ever overlooked the fact that the animal stands in relation to something other than itself. But from recognition of this fact it is a long way to the insight, first into its essence, and second into the essential nature of this relation for the structure of the organism as such.
As far as clarification of this connection is concerned, the second step was taken by the near contemporary investigations of Uexküll, almost all of which appeared in the 'Journal of Biology'.3 Now biology has long been acquainted with the discipline called ecology. The word ecology derives from οἶκος, the Greek word for house. It signifies the investigation of where and how animals are at home in the world, of the way in which they live in relation to their environment. But in Darwinism precisely this was understood in an external manner in the light of the question concerning adaptation. In Darwinism such investigations were based upon the fundamentally misconceived idea that the animal is present at hand, and then subsequently adapts itself to a world that is present at hand, that it then comports itself accordingly and that the fittest individual gets selected. Yet the task is not simply to identify the specific conditions of life materially speaking, but rather to acquire insight into the relational structure between the animal and its environment. In Uexküll's investigations too, the theory and the type of theoretical-philosophical interpretation involved is less important than the astonishing sureness and abundance of his observations and his appropriate descriptions. His investigations are very highly valued today, but they have not yet acquired the fundamental significance they could have if a more radical interpretation of the organism were developed on their basis. In this connection the totality of the organism would not merely consist in the corporeal totality of the animal, but rather this corporeal totality could itself only be understood on the basis of that original totality which is circumscribed by what we called the disinhibiting ring. It would be foolish if we attempted to impute or ascribe philosophical inadequacy to Uexküll's interpretations, instead of recognizing that the engagement with concrete investigations like this is one of the most fruitful things that philosophy can learn from contemporary biology. Uexküll has set forth these concrete investigations in his book The Environment and Inner World of Animals.4
Even the fact that Uexküll talks of an 'environing world' [Umwelt], and indeed of the 'inner world' of the animal, should not initially prevent us from simply pursuing what he means here. For in fact he means nothing other than what we have characterized as the disinhibiting ring. However, the whole approach does become philosophically problematic if we proceed to talk about the human world in the same manner. It is true that amongst the biologists
3. Zeitschrift für Biologie. Neue Folge. Ed. W. Kühne and C. Voit (Munich and Leipzig, 1896ff.).
4. J. von Uexküll, Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere, op. cit., p. 207.