Enter the Tiger Bubble

John Valliant, author of the fascinating book, The Tiger, gives this recent interview on Mongabay.com.  My favorite part, a takeaway for life, is this:

John Valliant: Umwelt is a term coined more than a century ago by an Estonian physiologist named Jakob von Uexkull who is considered one of the fathers of ethology (also known as behavioral ecology). Ethology is a young discipline whose goal is to study behavior and social organization through a biological lens. “To do so,” wrote Uexkull, “we must first blow, in fancy, a soap bubble around each creature to represent its own world, filled with the perceptions which it alone knows. When we ourselves then step into one of these bubbles, the familiar…is transformed.” Uexkull called this ‘bubble’ the umwelt, a German word that he applied to a given animal’s subjective or “self-centered” world. An individual’s umwelt exists side by side with the Umgebung—the term Uexkull used to describe the objective environment, a place that exists in theory but that none of us can truly know given the inherent limitations of our respective umwelten. For me, umwelt and umgebung offered a helpful framework for exploring and describing the experience of other creatures, which is one of the central themes in The Tiger.

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