Umwelt (502 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Roy Elveton (Carleton College )


The concept of the Umwelt plays a central role in Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) celebrated account of human existence in his major work, Being and Time (1927). The Umwelt, variously translated as “environment” or “surrounding world”, represents the everyday world of human activity: its cares, concerns and ends. It is best understood not as the world that is merely in our immediate vicinity, perceivable by a detached observer, but as the ordered arrangement of equipment and tools that is directly accessible to human practical activities and aims. What “surrounds” us in this sense is what is practically necessary, available and desirable with respect …

Elveton, Roy. "Umwelt". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 April 2005
[, accessed 22 October 2016.]