The talk will be held in German.
Biography of Life? Perspectives of Ethology in the History of Science
The paper investigates the relationship between language and life, between the representation and representability of life from the perspective of its history. The basic question is adopted from Behavioral Studies (Ethology), of how life forms can be conceptualized in observation, if the observation does not accord with the experimental conditions of a laboratory. Richard Dawkins’ 2004 study ›The Ancestor’s Tale‹ (German: ›Geschichten vom Ursprung des Lebens‹) provides a basis for the discussion of this question. The present paper will focus especially on the Madagascan Aye-aye, a species of lemur, for three reasons:
- due to the island of Madagascar’s status as prototypical, and significant also in evolutionary terms, as a »microcosm« that provides the »pattern« (in Dawkins’ term) for the evolution of mammals
- due to the evolutionary significance of the period at which the Aye-aye originated, shortly after the end of the time of the dinosaurs – the condition for the origin of the present-day wealth of species
- because, finally, the Aye-aye is an ›exception‹ in evolutionary development, an incomparable species that also forms its own genus in the evolutionary tree of the lemurs
The guiding thread in this ‘portrait’ of the history of life through the example of the Aye-aye is the relation of »universality and intensity« of human speech (Walter Benjamin), that is, the problem of how unique life can be represented as form – be it in an overarching history or a correlating system of life.
Respondent: Adrian Robanus (Institut für deutsche Sprache und Literatur I, Köln)