From 'circumstances' to 'environment': Herbert Spencer and the origins of the idea of organism–environment interaction
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (3):241-252 (2010)
The word ‘environment’ has a history. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the idea of a singular, abstract entity—the organism—interacting with another singular, abstract entity—the environment—was virtually unknown. In this paper I trace how the idea of a plurality of external conditions or circumstances was replaced by the idea of a singular environment. The central figure behind this shift, at least in Anglo-American intellectual life, was the philosopher Herbert Spencer. I examine Spencer’s work from 1840 to 1855, demonstrating that he was exposed to a variety of discussions of the ‘force of circumstances’ in this period, and was decisively influenced by the ideas of Auguste Comte in the years preceding the publication of Principles of psychology (1855). It is this latter work that popularized the word ‘environment’ and the corresponding idea of organism–environment interaction—an idea with important metaphysical and methodological implications. Spencer introduced into the English-speaking world one of our most enduring dichotomies: organism and environment.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Naomi Beck (2005). Enrico Ferri's Scientific Socialism: A Marxist Interpretation of Herbert Spencer's Organic Analogy. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Biology 38 (2):301 - 325.
Robert L. Carneiro & Robert G. Perrin (2002). Herbert Spencer's Principles of Sociology : A Centennial Retrospective and Appraisal. Annals of Science 59 (3):221-261.
Charles Darwin (1883/1998). The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. Johns Hopkins University Press.
John Dewey (1898). Evolution and Ethics. The Monist 8 (3):321-341.
John Dewey (1896). The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology. Psychological Review 3:357-370.
Citations of this work BETA
Trevor Pearce (2012). Philosophy of Biology in the Twenty-First Century. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):312-315.
Trevor Pearce (2011). Ecosystem Engineering, Experiment, and Evolution. Biology and Philosophy 26 (6):793-812.
Similar books and articles
Timo Jarvilehto (2000). Feeling as Knowing--Part I: Emotion as Reorganization of the Organism-Environment System. Consciousness and Emotion 1 (2):245-257.
Timo Jarvilehto (1999). The Theory of the Organism-Environment System: III. Role of Efferent Influences on Receptors in the Formation of Knowledge. Philosophical Explorations.
Marshall Abrams (2009). Fitness “Kinematics”: Biological Function, Altruism, and Organism–Environment Development. Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):487-504.
Marshall Abrams (2007). Fitness and Propensity's Annulment? Biology and Philosophy 22 (1):115-130.
Daniel K. Palmer (2004). On the Organism-Environment Distinction in Psychology. Behavior and Philosophy 32 (2):317 - 347.
Timo Jarvilehto, The Theory of the Organism-Environment System: II. Significance of Nervous Activity in the Organism-Environment System.
Timo Jarvilehto (2000). The Theory of the Organism-Environment System: The Problem of Mental Activity and Consciousness. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 35 (1):35-57.
Graham Haydon * (2004). Values Education: Sustaining the Ethical Environment. Journal of Moral Education 33 (2):115-129.
José-Leonel Torres & Lynn Trainor (2008). On Organism: Environment Buffers and Their Ecological Significance. Biology and Philosophy 23 (3):403-416.
Donald Borrett, Sean D. Kelly & Hon Kwan (2000). Bridging Embodied Cognition and Brain Function: The Role of Phenomenology. Philosophical Psychology 13 (2):261-266.
Mark Rowlands (1995). Against Methodological Solipsism: The Ecological Approach. Philosophical Psychology 8 (1):5-24.
Added to index2010-09-12
Total downloads15 ( #122,762 of 1,410,435 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #75,847 of 1,410,435 )
How can I increase my downloads?