The Origins and Development of the Idea of Organism-Environment Interaction

In Gillian Barker, Eric Desjardins & Trevor Pearce (eds.), Entangled Life: Organism and Environment in the Biological and Social Sciences. Dordrecht: Springer (2014)
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Abstract

The idea of organism-environment interaction, at least in its modern form, dates only to the mid-nineteenth century. After sketching the origins of the organism-environment dichotomy in the work of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, I will chart its metaphysical and methodological influence on later scientists and philosophers such as Conwy Lloyd Morgan and John Dewey. In biology and psychology, the environment was seen as a causal agent, highlighting questions of organismic variation and plasticity. In philosophy, organism-environment interaction provided a new foundation for ethics, politics, and scientific inquiry. Thinking about organism-environment interaction became indispensable, for it had restructured our view of the biological and social world.

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Trevor Pearce
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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