The Whole Creature
Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture
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Drawing on the new field of complex adaptive systems and biosemiotics, this groundbreaking synthesis of evolutionary and cultural theory argues that—far from being opposed to nature—culture is the way that nature has evolved in human beings. This major contribution to both cultural studies and ecocriticism shows how complexity and biosemiotics forge the link between nature and culture, and provide a new and better understanding of how the whole human creature operates as both a social and biological being.
In this ground-breaking synthesis of evolutionary and cultural theory, Wendy Wheeler draws on the new field of complex adaptive systems and biosemiotics in order to argue that - far from being opposed to nature - culture is the way that nature has evolved in human beings. Her argument is that these evolutionary processes reveal the fundamental sociality of human creatures, and she thus rejects the selfish individualism that is implied both in the biological reductionism of much recent evolutionary psychology, and in the philosophies of neoliberalism.
She shows, instead, that the complex structures of biosemiotic evolution have always involved a creativity which is born from the difficult but productive phenomenological encounter between the Self and its Others; and she argues that this creativity, in both the sciences and the humanities, is fundamental to human progress. In this major contribution to both cultural studies and ecocriticism, Wheeler shows how complexity and biosemiotics forge the link between nature and culture, and provide a new and better understanding of how ‘the whole human creature’ operates as both social and biological being.
Read a review of The Whole Creature by John Pickering, University of Warwick in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 14, No 3.
“What a pleasure to read this book, which integrates biosemiotics into a wider argument about…human sociality.”
—Jesper Hoffmeyer, associate professor in biological chemistry, University of Copenhagen
“Stunning yet gentle gestures towards a very different eco-politics Wheeler’s book is a quiet triumph. Although there are an increasing number of thinkers doing more than just bridge the divide between science and culture, few perhaps do it this well. And few write so clearly without sacrificing complexity - in this case the complexity of relations that Wheeler refuses to relinquish in favour of either a reductionist science or (even worse in her book) reductionist political cultures, such as those of neoliberal performance management. The most pleasurable surprise for me in this book is the suggestion of a new politics, based on a new sensitivity, across the nature-culture divide, to what the important Danish biologist Jesper Hoffmeyer has called biosemiotic freedom. Truly a series of steps forward for those rethinking the basics of culture, biology and freedom. And a very interesting, practical, way of bringing “theory” of all kinds to bear on urgent eco-political agendas as they play themselves out - not only in the stratosphere, but in everyday life.”
Dr. Andrew K. Murphie “Ib” (Sydney, Australia)