A Subjective Theory of Organism

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University Press of America, 1995 - Philosophy - 251 pages
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This original and thought-provoking volume examines organic life as subjective activity. It shows that organic life operates differently from objective thought and truth. The volume considers topics such as: the origin of life, the absorption of food, the operation of heredity, and the possible control of further evolutionary development. Contents: Preface: Activity in Perspective; Acknowledgement; Activity as a Presupposition; Limitations of Objective Thought for Organic Control; The Greek Development of Objective Knowledge: Parmenides and Plato; Aristotle's Natural Entities and Their Limitations; Dualism and the Development of Subjective Thought; Berkeley and Knowing Other Subjects; Knowing Organisms as Subject; A Plan for Examining Organisms as Active Agents; The Origin of Life from the Inorganic; Organisms and their Food; Heredity; The Mode of Evolutionary Change; The Control of Evolution; Conclusion; Index.
 

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This book is Dr. Diefenbeck's "subjective approach to biology". For "Pete" Diefenbeck, the foundation of western metaphysics is Activity, starting with, I suppose, sub-atomic activity, atomic activity, molecular activity, where atoms "decide" whether to interact or not, evolutionary activity where, at some time, what he calls "inorganic" activity became "organic". Here, because Dr. Diefenbeck was not a chemist or biochemist, he has labeled the universe of activity prior to the appearance of biological life, "inorganic", meaning, in his mind, not having organs or organelles. Apparently unaware that organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon and carbon based molecules, Pete blissfully goes on about how life must have evolved from inorganic molecules to organic ones. But the "error" is overlooked by this reviewer, because I was a chemistry major and fully understand what the good doctor is saying. At some time in the history of the earth, life evolved from non-living molecules. We usually call this the "primordial soup" and we usually place the cauldron this soup stewed in the oceans. We know life came from the seas and, eventually, crawled up on land (because we have comparative vertebrate anatomy). So it does not matter whether we call life organic or not, as long as we understand that animals and humans usually have "organ systems" and that these organs are carbon-based (organic). I think the point is moot.
In any case, Pete goes on from molecular activity to cellular activity. We know organs are made up of cells, each organ having cells specific to that organ, for example, muscle cells, brain cells, skin cells, and so forth. We are, thus, talking about a hierarchy of activities, from the basic building blocks of life, (DNA molecules which are made up of the five bases and so forth), but Pete does not get into the details of chemical reactions or biochemical reactions, he just accepts the fact that such reactions take place and that we are made up of organ systems that engage in metabolic activity, sexual (reproductive) activity and later, on into community and political activity.
The modern philosopher will note that Dr. Diefenbeck taught the history of western philosophy for about thirty years (at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) and that he has other books: The Celebration of Subjective Thought, Wayward Reflections on the History of Philosophy, and Rights, Politics and Economics. The western philosophical tradition, going back to the ancient Greeks includes the so-called objective, scientific (natural philosophy) tradition based on cause and effect and the development of subjectivity as necessary in understanding people, who are subjects, after all, and not objects. So Dr. Diefenbeck thought it was impossible to be objective about people. He thought "Objectivity, in dealing with people, is a great illusion." In his paper, Cause, Law, Uncaused Cause, First Cause, Final Cause and Beyond, Pete Diefenbeck moves, finally, "from Cause to Community" which is a "multiplicity of first causes". For Dr. Diefenbeck, every person is a First Cause, a self-legislator, a self-regulator and a self-creator. He moves in this book, from the basic activities of the universe to the evolutionary activities of man. He saw that biological activity led natuarlly to political activity, but does not cover political activity in this book. That is for Rights, Politics and Economics. I found this book, A Subjective Theory of Organism a welcome change from most western philosophy books. He presumed George Berkeley's statement was true, that there is "no material substratum" behind our persceptions. Activity is, like Dr. Allinson's word "process" a word that does not presume a "material" substratum behind our perceptions, as perception itself is an activity. With Activity Dr. Diefenbeck could and does explain everything we perceive. Ironically
 

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Contents

ACTIVITY AS A PRESUPPOSITION
1
LIMITATIONS OF OBJECTIVE THOUGHT FOR ORGANIC CONTROL
37
THE GREEK DEVELOPMENT OF OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE PARMENIDES AND PLATO
53
ARISTOTLES NATURAL ENTITIES AND THEIR LIMITATIONS
73
DUALISM AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUBJECTIVE THOUGHT
87
BERKELEY AND KNOWING OTHER SUBJECTS
95
KNOWING ORGANISMS AS SUBJECTS
109
A PLAN FOR EXAMINING ORGANISMS AS ACTIVE AGENTS
127
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE FROM THE INORGANIC
133
ORGANISMS AND THEIR FOOD
149
HEREDITY
159
THE MODE OF EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
175
THE CONTROL OF EVOLUTION
197
CONCLUSION
225
Index
249
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