Embracing complexity: Organicism for the 21st century

  title={Embracing complexity: Organicism for the 21st century},
  author={Scott F. Gilbert and Sahotra Sarkar},
  journal={Developmental Dynamics},
Organicism (materialistic holism) has provided the philosophical underpinnings for embryology since the time of Kant. It had influenced the founders of developmental mechanics, and the importance of organicism to embryology was explicitly recognized by such figures as O. Hertwig, H. Spemann, R. Harrison, A. M. Dalq, J. Needham, and C. H. Waddington. Many of the principles of organicism remain in contemporary developmental biology, but they are rarely defined as such. A combination of genetic… 

Metaphysics, Function and the Engineering of Life: the Problem of Vitalism

Abstract Vitalism was long viewed as the most grotesque view in biological theory: appeals to a mysterious life-force, Romantic insistence on the autonomy of life, or worse, a metaphysics of an

Neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but organicism: what the philosophy of biology was

It is shown that the organicist corpus is thematically and methodologically continuous with the contemporary literature in order to discredit the view that early work in the philosophy of biology was unproductive, and the desirability of integrating the historical and contemporary conversations into a single, unified discourse is emphasized.

Between holism and reductionism : organismic inheritance and neo-Kantian biological tradition in Britain and the USA, 1890-1940

Anglophone biology at the start of the twentieth century tends to be remembered as ambitiously reductionist. Yet it was also a time that saw the flourishing of a now largely forgotten Kantian

Vitalism and Teleology in Kurt Goldstein’s Organismic Approach

In this chapter we focus on the relationship at the turn of the twentieth century between vitalistic theories and a special case of a holistic approach to biology, Kurt Goldstein’s organicism. We

La búsqueda de una teoría holística e histórico-desarrollista del organismo

ABSTRACT. THE QUEST FOR A HOLISTIC AND HISTORICAL-DEVELPOMENTAL OF THE ORGANISM In this work the doctrine of organicism will be addressed, as explained and seen mainly by Bertalanffy. We will study

Integrative levels and ‘the Great Evolution’: Organicist biology and the sociology of Norbert Elias

The achievement of Norbert Elias was to develop a paradigmatic foundation for sociology as the lynchpin in a broader human science encompassing the social and biological dimensions of human

The conquest of vitalism or the eclipse of organicism? The 1930s Cambridge organizer project and the social network of mid-twentieth-century biology

  • E. Peterson
  • Art
    The British Journal for the History of Science
  • 2013
It is argued that while limited evidence exists for the ‘fall of the organizer concept’ by the 1950s, the organicism that often motivated the organizer work had no concomitant fall – even during the mid-century heyday of molecular biology.

The myth of Frederic Clements’s mutualistic organicism, or: on the necessity to distinguish different concepts of organicism

  • Thomas Kirchhoff
  • Environmental Science
    History and philosophy of the life sciences
  • 2020
This paper will object to this standard interpretation of Frederic Clements’s theory of plant communities, which interprets plant communities as top-down control-hierarchical entities, in which subordinate species depend on dominant species—but not the other way around.

Life as an Emergent Phenomenon: From an Alternative to Vitalism to an Alternative to Reductionism

In this contribution, I investigate the changes of focus in the philosophical concept of emergence in the nineteenth and twentieth century period, especially in connection with the problem of

A non-metaphysical evaluation of vitalism in the early twentieth century

  • Bohang Chen
  • Philosophy
    History and philosophy of the life sciences
  • 2018
In biology the term “vitalism” is usually associated with Hans Driesch’s doctrine of the entelechy: entelechies were nonmaterial, bio-specific agents responsible for governing a few peculiar biological phenomena, but in the early twentieth century, a different, non-metaphysical evaluation of vitalism was endorsed by some biologists and philosophers, which finally led to a logical refutation of the doctrine.



Science, philosophy, and politics in the work of J. B. S. Haldane, 1922–1937

This paper analyzes the interaction between science, philosophy and politics (including ideology) in the early work of J. B. S. Haldane (from 1922 to 1937). This period is particularly important, not

The Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences

PROF. J. B. S. HALDANE is, by his own confession, a recent convert to the philosophy of Marx, and with the characteristic zeal of the convert wishes others to share his faith. If it is necessary or

Biology Takes Form: Animal Morphology and the German Universities, 1800-1900

The intertwined histories of morphology and the broader biological enterprise are examined, demonstrating that the study of form was central to investigations of such issues as the relationships between an animal's structure and function, between an organism and its environment, and between living species and their ancestors.

The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives

Paradigms as Path: Pattern as Map - Classical Genetics as a Source of Non-Reductionism in Molecular Biology D. Thaler.

Reenchanted science: holism in German culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler

Galenism as the dominant medical philosophy in the later middle ages and early modem period. It is a history in turn that assumes that this was always an age of patient-led medicine. This was

A Conceptual History of Modern Embryology

Although embryology is one of biology's principal disciplines, its history is often largely neglected. In this volume, Scott Gilbert brings together 13 prominent embryologists and historians to write

The Ontology of Complex Systems: Levels of Organization, Perspectives, and Causal Thickets

Willard van Orman Quine once said that he had a preference for a desert ontology. This was in an earlier day when concerns with logical structure and ontological simplicity reigned supreme.

The Rediscovery of the Mind

The Problems of Life

The author here introduces as the main prop of the monodic theory the principle of "heterogenetic" development, viz.: that, owing to the nature of biomolecularr development, two daughter-cells must be different in constitution both from one another and also from the mother-cell.