Accessibility navigation

The great unifier: form and the unity of the organism

Oderberg, D. ORCID: (2018) The great unifier: form and the unity of the organism. In: Simpson, W. M. R., Koons, R. C. and Teh, N. J. (eds.) Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science. Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Routledge, pp. 210-232. ISBN 9780415792561

Text - Accepted Version
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.


Organisms possess a special unity that biologists have long recognized and that cries out for explanation. Organs and collectives also have their own related kinds of unity, so what distinguishes the unity of the organism? I argue that only substantial form, a central plank of hylemorphic metaphysics, can provide the explanation we need. I set out the idea that whilst organisms possess substantial form, organs abtain the substantial form of the organisms they belong to, and collectives contain the substantial forms of their organismic members. I consider a number of difficult cases, including lichens, biofilms, cellular slime moulds, and plasmodial slime moulds, arguing that none of them pose a serious threat to the threefold distinction between organ, organism, and collective. I conclude by arguing that two prominent, alternative unity principles for organisms do not work, thus giving indirect support to the need for substantial form.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:66662


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation