an atom is a set of relations between electrons and protons.) As long as it lives theorganism preserves a certain continuity of structure although it does not preserve thecomplete identity of its constituent parts. It loses some of its constituent molecules byrespiration or excretion; it takes in others by respiration and alimentary absorption. Over a period its constituent cells do not remain the same. But the structural arrangement of theconstituent units does remain similar. The process by which this structural continuity of the organism is maintained is called life. The life-process consists of the activities andinteractions of the constituent units of the organism, the cells, and the organs into whichthe cells are united.As the word function is here being used the life of an organism is conceived as the
of its structure. It is through and by the continuity of the functioning that thecontinuity of the structure is preserved. If we consider any recurrent part of the life- process, such as respiration, digestion, etc., its
is the part it plays in, thecontribution it makes to, the life of the organism as a whole. As the terms are here beingused a cell or an organ has an
and that activity has a
It is true that wecommonly speak of the secretion of gastric fluid as a 'function' of the stomach. As thewords are here used we should say that this is an 'activity' of the stomach, the 'function' of which is to change the proteins of food into a form in which these are absorbed anddistributed by the blood to the tissues.
We may note that the function of a recurrent physiological process is thus a correspondence between it and the needs (i.e. necessaryconditions of existence) of the organism.If we set out upon a systematic investigation of the nature of organisms andorganic life there are three sets of problems presented to us. (There are, in addition,certain other sets of problems concerning aspects or characteristics of organic life withwhich we are not here concerned.) One is that of morphology -what kinds of organicstructures are there, what similarities and variations do they show, and how can they beclassified? Second are the problems of physiology -- how, in general, do organicstructures function, what, therefore, is the nature of the lifeprocess? Third are the problems of evolution or development -how do new types of organisms come intoexistence?2