An extended organism is not a system closed off from the environment, but one that can extend freely into the environment. +Silver Rattasepp
cites Andras Angyal.
> ... all of the writers on the topic of the "extended organism" are unsatisfied with the general principle that the organism is separated from its environment by a concrete physical boundary or barrier between the two, so that the organism would be "inside" and the environment "outside" — that one would be precisely what the other is not. In what follows, all the researchers are characterised by their abandonment of the so-called "morphological conception" of organisms (Palmer 2004: 321), that is, the idea that in order to outline an organism as a unit of research, it is sufficient to indicate some particular part of its anatomy — in this case, its skin. They deny that a particular physical structure in space can function as a generally applicable boundary that will precisely structure and oppose to each other the two halves, the organism and the environment. Instead, they seek functionalist solutions, arguing that in studying organismic functioning, the morphological line of demarcation will frequently become irrelevant.
> And it was precisely when discussing these topics that the psychologist Andras Angyal came to the conclusion that "the consideration of the organism and environment in morphological terms leads to such logical entanglement that the concepts of organism and environment are made useless for scientific purposes" (1941: 121), and that "it is, in principle, impossible to draw any line of separation because organism and environment are not static structures separable in space, but are opposing directions in the biological total process" (ibid., 92). Consequently, "the body surface is not the boundary of the organism," but rather
> ... the organism is entirely permeated by the environment which insinuates itself into every part of it. On the other hand, the organism does not end at the body surface but penetrates into its environment. The realm of events which are influenced by the autonomy of the organism is not limited to the body but extends far beyond it. Every process which is a resultant of the interplay of the organismic autonomy and the environmental heteronomy is part of the life process, irrespective of whether it takes place within the body or outside of it. (ibid., 97)
> To replace the morphological conception, Angyal proposes a distinction between two aspects of the total life process, which he called autonomy and heteronomy respectively. The former Angyal imagined as the organism's independent or self-governed processes, examples of which would be the healing of a wound, reflexes — such as when a cat turns itself around when falling down, thus landing on its feet — and the regulation of body temperature, accomplished by all warm-blooded creatures. On the other hand, within this total life process there are things that reach the organism from its surroundings, and as examples we can provide a list corresponding to the one just presented: something sharp cutting the skin, gravity pulling the cat downwards, and air or water temperature. Thus retaining the body temperature is autonomous, the sharp external object heteronomous, and so on.
> Yet despite what might at first appear, this is not a reiteration of the original separation between the organism and its environment, since the organism cannot be completely equated with the autonomous, and the environment entirely with the heteronomous aspect of life processes; furthermore, Angyal's is not a morphological distinction. Instead, in different parts and at different times within the life process, the ratio of autonomy and heteronomy is different; Angyal did not consider these two aspects as opposed, but rather claimed that the transition from one to the other is gradual.
"The idea of extended organism in 20th century thought" | Silver Rattasepp | 2010 | Hortus Semioticus (University of Tartu, Estonia) at http://www.ut.ee/hortussemioticus/6_2010/rattasepp.html