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This work is not a text-book of theoretical biology; it is a systematic presentment of those biological topics which bear upon the true philosophy of nature. The book is written in a decidedly subjective manner, and it seems to me that this is just what “Gifford Lectures” ought to be. They ought never to lose, or even try to lose, their decidedly personal character.

My appointment as Gifford Lecturer, the news of which reached me in February 1906, came just at the right moment in the progress of my theoretical studies. I had always tried to improve my previous books by adding notes or altering the arrangement; I also had left a good deal of things unpublished, and thus I often hoped that I might have occasion to arrange for a new, improved, and enlarged edition of those books. This work then is the realisation of my hopes; it is, in its way, a definitive statement of all that I have to say about the Organic.

The lectures contained in this book were written in English by a German and delivered at a Scottish university. Almost all of the ideas discussed in it were first conceived during the author’s long residence in Southern Italy. Thus this book may be witness to the truth which, I hope, will be universally recognised in the near future—that all culture, moral and intellectual and aesthetic, is not limited by the bounds of nationality.


Heidelberg, 2nd January 1908.