What makes an organism

The designation organism is generally used for systems that are to be identified as holistic, hierarchical and target-oriented.

In biology and medicine, this is an individual living being. Although unicellular organisms have no organs, they can be viewed as hierarchically structured, goal-oriented organisms. Hyphae or mycelial fungi, on the other hand, form a simple network. Viruses and viroids are not classed as organisms because they neither have their own metabolism nor the ability to organize themselves.

According to Ludwig von Bertalanffy is a more alive Organism is a stepped structure of open systems which, due to its system conditions, is self-sustaining in the change of components. The preservation of the components is only possible through their relationship to the whole.

Every part of an organism is always the means and end of all others at the same time (Immanuel Kant). Because an organism is goal-oriented, i.e. is determined by a purpose (teleology), the organism itself is more than the sum of its parts (Aristotle).

As a rule, organism and mechanism are viewed as pairs of opposites, with the organism being an unstable system and the mechanism being a stable system. A goal in the theoretical consideration of organisms is therefore always the agreement of mechanical-causal and organic-teleological processes.

Concept history

The term "organism" originated at the beginning of the 18th century (with Georg Ernst Stahl) at a time when "life" was beginning to be understood as a separate category with its own regulatory principles. This view favored the development of biology and the life sciences. At this time, the body of a living being was largely understood as a pure mechanism following Descartes' separation of matter and spirit - with the difference that this natural mechanism, in contrast to the artificial one, was understood as an automaton that was fully functional down to the smallest limb, the Replaced defective parts independently. The term "organism" is understood by Stahl as a conceptual derivation and comparison to "mechanism".[1]

See also

Further information and individual evidence


  • Michael Ewers: Philosophy of the organism from a teleological and dialectical point of view. An idea history floor plan, Münster 1986
  • Wilhelm Weischedel (Ed.): Immanuel Kant: Critique of Judgement. Work edition Volume X, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005, especially here § 65 Things, as natural ends, are organized beings (§ 65 at Korpora.org)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Theodor Ballauff: Organism I. (biology), published in: Joachim Ritter and Karlfried Gründer (eds.): Historical dictionary of philosophy, Volume 6, Darmstadt 1984, Sp. 1330-1336