You are here

The Science and Philosophy of Organism, vol. 2

1906 to 1908
University of Aberdeen

After some introductory remarks, Driesch begins part 3 by discussing the most basic types of organic movements, from simple reflexes to directive movements and co-ordinated motions. Along the way to his discussion of co-ordinated movement he introduces the work of H. S. Jennings on 'trial and error', paying particular attention to Jennings’ solution to the problem of taxis and his considerations on single motor acts. The general insight from his discussion of Jennings concerns the variable nature of primitive animal movement, further suggesting the autonomy of the biological organism. During his discussion of coordinated movement, Driesch turns his attention to the conceptual constructions established by von Uexkuell regarding elemental nervous qualities, before giving a categorisation of the various classes of coordination in light of von Uexkuell’s analysis.

Part 3 continues, with the topics of instinct and action. J. Loeb’s work on instinct is examined alongside problems relating to the stimuli of instincts and the regulation of instincts. His discussion of action expounds two criteria of acting — its (the actions) foundation in history and its being a consequential reaction to a corresponding individual stimulus. Action is thought to demonstrate a further proof of the autonomy of life, and Driesch also accounts the various degrees of acting in different animals. Some consideration is also paid to mind-body interaction, in particular the refutation of psycho-physical parallelism, and section A concludes with a view to discussing the results of the scientific investigation in the remainder of the lectures.

Section B (comprised of four parts) turns its attention to the philosophy of organism. Driesch’s introductory discussions cover the concept of teleology and the characteristics of entelechy, which together comprise the main topics of the section. Part 1 delves into the indirect justification of entelechy. The first major discussion covers the topic of entelechy and causality, discussing entelechy in relation to the principles of conservation of energy and of becoming, before discussing its relation to the distribution of given elements. The notion is also shown in its relation to mechanics, and Driesch further examines how entelechy is itself affected in relation to morphogenetic entelechy, the principle of action and reaction, and the affection of the psychoid. Entelechy is also examined in relation to substance — raising issues of its incompatibility with a 'living' chemical substance and discussing its relation to substance as a category.

Having brought to bear some considerations on the indirect justification of entelchy in part 1, Driesch turns to some more direct justifications in part 2. He begins by examining a proof based upon 'introspective analysis of complete Givenness' in which various forms of psycho-physical parallelism are raised and a 'new' form parallelism developed. Driesch hopes to have shown that vitalism is established, at least, for the investigator, through the refutation of parallelism. Part 2 continues with a treatise on the category 'individuality' and hopes to have finally established its connection with teleology and given an 'analytical definition of the individual living organism' (338).

Part 3 raises 'the problem of universal teleology', which includes a retrospect on the consequence of machine theory, the problem of inorganic individuality and some limits on teleology imposed by the concept of contingency. Driesch also pays some attention to morality as a standard to measure universal purpose.

The series concludes with part 4, which is tied up with metaphysical conclusions pertaining to entelechy, teleology and the absolute. Driesch maintains that the 'primary entelechy' assumed by natural science and epistemically analogous to the absolute falls far short in men’s minds of a perfect absolute Being despite being coherent to the concept of God by any 'reasoning imagination'. Overall, he hopes to have given the reader some idea of how science and philosophy hang together on the understanding that 'Givenness [nature] is One and philosophy is the endeavour to understand Givenness' (374).

  • Jon Cameron, University of Aberdeen