Workshop at the University of Tartu, May 13, 2004

Cassirer, Lotman, Uexküll: between biology and semiotics of culture

Cassirer's late programme brings together both strands of research pursued at the University of Tartu's Department of Semiotics.
It continues the work of Juri Lotman, who taught at Tartu and who developed the semiotic theory of culture in early 1970s. Cassirer's programme for a semiotic theory of culture bears close comparison to the approach developed by Lotman, which he and his colleagues developed without knowing much of the work of Cassirer. No comparison of these approaches has ever been undertaken.
The Jakob von Uexküll Centre, which is affiliated with the Department, is dedicated to research on Uexküll's pioneering work on biosemiotics. Uexküll and Cassirer were colleagues in Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Cassirer's late writings reveal hitherto unknown and unexamined attempts to develop a theory of culture in conjunction with a biosemiotic approach inspired by Uexküll. Cassirer's influence on contemporary biosemiotics has not been strong due to the fact that Cassirer's late papers have not been accessible to biosemioticians. However, preliminary analysis shows that the ideas Cassirer developed are quite compatible with current thinking and that further work may mean that Cassirer will be considered as a classic of biosemiotics in future textbooks.


Peeter Torop (Tartu) - Opening words
Introductiory words from the organisers
John Krois (Berlin/Uppsala) - Cassirer's philosophy of biology
Kalevi Kull (Tartu) - Biosemiosis, umwelt, semiosphere
Coffee break
Manfred Laubichler (Arizona/Berlin) - Ernst Cassirer: Theoretical biology, philosophical anthropology, and the search for an integrated theory of life and culture
Aleksei Turovski (Tallinn) - Signs in dynamic in the animal park
13.15 Lunch
Frederik Stjernfelt (Copenhagen) - Cassirer and Uexküll - a critical comparison
Dario Martinelli (Helsinki) - The musical circle: The umwelt theory, as applied to zoomusicology
Coffee break
Andreas Weber (Hamburg) - 'Mind is a symbol of the body': Embodied meaning as a central problem in Ernst Cassirer's semiotics of culture

The symposium will be opened at 9.00, Struve St. 2, in the lecture hall of the Estonian Naturalists' Society Building.
Each talk, except the first one, will be 35 minutes, followed by discussion.

This workshop is funded in part by the VolkswagenStiftung and SCASSS, Uppsala.
Local organisers:
Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu
Jakob von Uexküll Centre


Gatherings in biosemiotics
Zoosemiotics Home Page
Juri Lotman homepage

John Krois:
Der Begriff des Mythos bei Ernst Cassirer.
Was sind und was sollen Bilder?.
Kalevi Kull:
On semiosis, umwelt, and semiosphere.
Manfred Laubichler:
Frankenstein in the Land of Dichter and Denker
Mihhail Lotman:
Umwelt and semiosphere.
Dario Martinelli:
Symptomatology of a semiotic research: methodologies and problems in zoomusicology
Frederik Stjernfelt:
The idea that changed the world.
Andreas Weber:
Cognition as expression: On the autopoietic foundations of an aesthetic theory of nature.

See also:
Craig Brandist, Bakhtin, Cassirer and symbolic forms.