Organismic Concepts in Biology and Physics

Review of Metaphysics 7 (2):282 - 289 (1953)
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Abstract

The model provided by the organismic point of view is quite different. Without having recourse to any transcendent vital force or immanent teleology, it nevertheless rejects the basic ideas of mechanism. More specifically, it replaces the analytical- summative conception by the idea of biological organisms as wholes or systems which have unique system-properties and obey irreducible system-laws. The machine-theoretical conception is replaced by a dynamic interpretation of living things, wherein organic structures are due to a continuous flow of processes combining to produce patterns of immense intricacy. The reaction-theoretical conception is jettisoned in favour of the view that the organism is primarily a center of activity which is autonomous and not a mere response to external stimuli. Finally, the organismic model considers that biological systems are stratified, so that, e.g., viruses, genes, chromosomes, cells, multicellular individuals, supra-individual aggregates, etc., form a hierarchy of "levels" exhibiting an increasing degree of complexity. The whole of nature, indeed, contains "a tremendous architecture, in which subordinate systems are united at successive levels into ever higher and larger systems."

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