Prof Markus Wild's presentation "Adolf Portmann’s Argument for Animal Self-presentation"

This Friday (24.04.2015) at 14:15 in room Jakobi 2-336 professor Markus Wild (University of Basel) will give a presentation. "Adolf Portmann’s Argument for Animal Self-presentation". Abstract is below

Prof. Dr. Markus Wild
Chair in Theoretical Philosophy
Department of Philosophy and Media Science
University of Basel, Switzerland

Adolf Portmann’s Argument for Animal Self-presentation

Adolf Portmann (1897-1982) was a Swiss Zoologist working mainly in the field of morphology and ethology. However, the main part of his work is dedicated to philosophical issues raised by biology’s scientific progress in the 20th Century (Neue Wege der Biologie 1961). Portmann counts among the main representatives of Philosophical Anthropology (Zoologie und das neue Bild des Menschen 1956). In her book Approaches to a Philosophical Biology (1965) – a pioneering work in the philosophy of biology – Marjorie Grene dedicates the first chapter to Portmann’s philosophy of biology. Moreover, Portmann influenced the development of biosemiotics. The central idea in Portmann’s work is the following: The concept of animal self-presentation is as basic as the concept of self-preservation in biology (Die Tiergestalt 1948). In other words, Portmann does not accept the Theodosius Dobzhanskys famous claim “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution”. He holds that nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of morphology and self-presentation, because morphology is the place to start for evolution and natural selection. In my talk I will present a reconstruction of Portmann’s argument for animal self-presentation; secondly, I try to defend the argument against some objections; finally, I will illustrate how Portmann’s central idea might be able to enlighten hypothesis construction in evolutionary theory.