Jakob von Uexküll’s Umweltlehre between cinematography, perception and philosophy | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-3682
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3690



The biologist and founder of Umwelt-Research Jakob von Uexküll used cinematographic techniques in many ways. This article explores three of these. First, Uexküll uses chronophotography to investigate the locomotion of marine organisms and insects, making multiple exposures on a single photographic surface to facilitate comparison between different phases of locomotion. Second, according to Uexküll, observing the motions of the living being in this way renders visible the ‘conformity with plan’ that is particular to each organism. The technique of cinematography is therefore original to his investigation of the plan-like character of organisms. Third, in his later works Foray into the World of Humans and Animals ([1934] 2010) and Theoretical Biology ([1920] 1926), Uexküll uses cinematography to demonstrate his theory that the life of every living being unfolds in its own perceptual world possessing of its own subjective time and spatiality. It is in this context that one has to understand the centrality of his references to ‘pre-cinematographic’ experiments on and theories of perception.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): biology; chronophotography; cinematography; perception; Uexküll; Umwelt
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