The Philosophy of the Act
Essay 17 Mechanical and Teleological Objects
A MECHANICAL object is one that is defined in terms of other things. A teleological object is one that defines other things in terms of itself. An electron is defined in terms of the fields of all other electrons as they are registered in its field. A living form defines food, enemies, refuges, and the like in terms of itself. In the case of the mechanical object we conceive of a process that is there in independence of the object, and within which the object appears as a determination of the mechanical whole. In the case of the teleological object we conceive of a process which constitutes the nature of the object, such as the plant or animal and of the surrounding things as continuations of this process-as food or resting places or respiratory air.
It follows that the objects of the environment of the teleological object enter into the perspective of the object only as embodying the process of the living form. Its own process of eating determines the food as offering itself for eating. It is only in so far as it offers itself for eating that it excites the form to seek it, i.e., in so far as it is a terminus of the eating process. The termination is present in the preparations of the final reactions which control the earlier parts of the act. There is here more than the selection of the characters which excite these terminal reactions. Their organization over against those which lead to the earlier phases of the act takes place in a pattern of the completed act that is going on in the living form. It is, then, the actual presence in the form of the beginnings of later processes controlling the earlier processes that is responsible for the pattern of the final object, and it is the control of the earlier processes that appears in the experience of the living form as the object--if it does appear. Control involves the presence of the
(302) object as determining the response; this can be there in advance only in so far as the whole process goes on within the organism. In the food process the whole process of taking up the hydrocarbons and proteins and assimilating them is going on within the system, and it is in the carrying-on of this act that the reaching and ingesting of the food without the body takes place. The cells of the organism take the nourishment from the inner fluid medium of the body. The body is continually eating in the process of getting the outer food. It is, therefore, taking the attitude of the distant food in the process of seeking and ingesting the food. That which is wanted is present in the satisfaction of the want. The form actually uses that which is sought in obtaining the wanted object. It aereates the system in respiration. It eats in getting food. It expends the required mineral products in replacing them. It reproduces through subdivision of generative cells in seeking the answering sex in reproduction. The process of want or need always arises through the expenditure of that which is wanted. The process going on inside the organism is extended outside through the further elaboration of the process, and it is that which is sought which is present in the inner organic operation which controls the attainment of the outer object-thus sexual stimulation is the inner reproduction of ova and spermatozoa. The control lies in the excitement of the inner process. This directs the approach to and conjugation of the sexes. The need within the system such as hunger arises through the expenditure of the food which is being exhausted. This expenditure excites the organs of taste and odor and of digestion. The watering of the mouth and the flow of digestive fluids are ready to operate upon what is there in insufficient amount.
The biological processes go on within the organism. The activities of the organism, within its environment, keep these processes in continuous operation. The mechanism for this consists in movements of the organism or its members that imply a sensitivity owing to deficiencies in the inner situation of the organism that lead to stimulations through outer objects setting
(303) free responses that replace the deficiencies. These reactions to external stimulations may, however, be looked at from the standpoint of inner processes. In this view it is the deficiency that leads to the inner process taking on a different character. The process, however, continues to be of the same character. The cells take nourishment from the inner medium and give off into this medium their waste products and peculiar secretions. They take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Some cells reproduce by fision, others are checked in this tendency by the character of their differentiation in its reaction to substances in the inner medium. The differentiation of the cells expresses the organic value of these deficiencies. Thus lack of nourishment in the inner medium answers to the specialization of cells of locomotion and ingestion. The differentiated cells are in the inner mechanism the representations of the outer objects which supply the inner deficiencies. Differentiation is the development of one function of the living process at the expense of the others. Food process, ingestion, and assimilation in the unicellular form is that which leads up to expenditure of energy. Muscle and nerve cells specialize in the expenditure of energy and only ingest and assimilate what is essential to their own activity, Cells in the digestive tract ingest and assimilate for the whole organism and only expend energy which is essential to their own activity. The lack of ingestion and assimilation on the part of these cells expresses itself in the heightened activity of nerve and muscle cells. For differentiation of one function takes place at the expense of others, only so much being retained as is essential for the continued existence of the cell itself. This differentiation is, then, an expression of absence of the function in so far as this is essential to the organism as a whole. The sensitivity of sense organs, the motility of muscle cells, and the operation of nerve tracts thus answer to the absence of the ingestion and assimilation of food. These cells are from the standpoint of the food process of the organism a liability to the organism; they are the needs or wants of the system. They have to be supported by the system, and their exercise of their functions consti-
(304) -tutes thus a need of the system. Furthermore, these functions are all parts of the original process within the unicellular form. Motion involving expenditure of energy means overcoming distance lying between the organism and food, and nutritivity means the adjustment of the organism to the food in the process of ingestion. The extension of the life-process to take in the environment implies that the interrelation of the functions in the unicellular form leaves them in the same relation; the outer object is but the reflex of the satisfaction of the function which the exercise of the other functions makes possible. The control lies, then, in the function which is in want. The exercise of this in the feeding of the cells which are differentiated for the exercise of other functions, when the food cells differentiated for the food process are without material for their function, is the result of the accomplishment of the task of the nutritive cells. The latter have given the motile cells the means of the exercise of their function. For these cells to take nourishment is to expend energy. It is their food process which controls their providing the food for the nutritive cells. In the organism the lack of means of expression of one function is a stimulation of the others.
The motile and other differentiated cells in their taking of food for the exercise of their functions are acting as the outer objects will act upon the organism; they are exciting the nutritive cells to activity by their demands upon them, while the ingested food will excite these cells by the presence of the nourishment. It is this excitement of the nutritive tract by the nonnutritive cells that gives rise to the stimulus to the nonnutritive cells which continues until the food provides the stimulus to the proper exercise of the nutritive tract.
The function and activity of nonnutritive cells in depleting the stores produced by the nutritive cells constitute a need or want in the system; their action, then, stimulates the nutritive cells, but though they stimulate the nutritive tract by exhausting the cell food in the system, they have at their disposal the energy of the system which is not called upon by process of di-
(305) -gestion and assimilation, and in the mechanism of the system the readiness of nutritive process stimulates the nonnutriive tracts. The action of the latter in their exhaustion of food in the system takes the place of the food which is brought into the system in exciting the nutritive tract. In expending energy the nonnutritive tracts assume the role of the food they are seeking.
In general, the outer object is already in the system as a want. It is patterned by the differentiated cells which are not occupied with it in the economy of the system. These cell tissues, however, must depend upon those which are occupied with that which is wanted. The use of the reserve store of that which is wanted stimulates the cells which are occupied with it, and these stimulate those that depend upon cells whose activity brings contact with external sources. In distance stimulation the organism is already acting upon itself as the outer object will act upon it, i.e., the distance stimulation arouses the responses of the organism to the object before the object is reached. The adjustment of the organism to contact through distance stimulation in advance of contact is a taking of the role of the distant object by the organism itself.
Want is not mere absence of that which is needed. In pathological conditions there is absence of nourishment but no want of appetite. Want is the stimulation of the process which lacks some material by those processes which supply the want while they exhaust the store of material in their process. This is the content of the want. It functions as the actual food functions later, i.e., it stimulates the processes of digestion. It is taking the role in this way of the outer object. The form of the outer object appears in the relation of the distance stimulation to contact processes. The distance stimulation arouses not only the processes of approach or withdrawal but also those of prehension in advance of actual contact.
From the standpoint of want the content of the object is the organic response that is seeking expression in advance of the object which supplies the want, and the form of the wanted ob-
(306) -ject is the organized reaction of the differentiated tissues which are not themselves involved in the want but which arouse it through their own exhaustion of what is needed and at the same time lead up to the satisfaction of the want. The physical object is one that comes between the initiation of the want and its satisfaction. It is not itself as a physical object the satisfaction or consummation of the act. It represents the contact relation of the organism to that which is extraorganic. The satisfaction takes place within the organism. The physical object lies outside the organism. The distinction between the organism and its environment is confused by the fact that the organism is stated in terms of the physical objects which constitute the environment. The definition of the organism is in terms of differentiation of cells which have always constituted a unity. It has arisen through cell division, and differentiation has maintained a unity. The simplest account identifies the organism with the living cells which have arisen through cell division and later growth. The unity, however, cannot be maintained except through relations with that which is not such an organization of cells.
The life-process of the single cells requires hydrocarbons, proteins, and various other chemicals for its existence, and possibility of excretion of waste products. The multicellular organism incloses within its own cellular structure an environment which serves these purposes for the different cells. The earliest distinction between the single cell and its nonorganic environment is gradual. The digestion begins outside the cell. The flowing of the organism about its surroundings makes the lines of demarcation broad and uncertain. The gases and fluids pass within and without and allow of no definite separation between the organism and its surroundings. There is the same situation in the relation of' the cells to the inner environment, It is impossible to draw any definite line between the inner fluid environment and the living cells which it bathes. The multicellular organism exposes surfaces which are not living to surrounding objects and thus sets up relations of externality.
(307) Externality means that the relation between the organism and its environment can no longer be that of the living process that flows between organism and surrounding nature. It must take place by distance stimulation, and defines distance stimulation as a relation springing out of living processes, e.g., radiation specialized in light out of warmth, sound waves out of adjustment to a fluid environment, smell out of the process of digestive ingestion; answering to this analysis of stimulation is that of motion of the cells which is not that of the life-process as a whole but of the organism as a whole or its parts.