But too often one reasons about the things of life in the same way as about the conditions of crude matter. Nowhere is the confusion so evident as in discussions about individuality. We are shown the stumps of a Lumbriculus, each regenerating its head and and living thenceforward as an independent individual; a hydra whose pieces become so many fresh hydras; a sea-urchin's egg whose fragments develop complete embryos: where then, we are asked, was the individuality of the egg, the hydra, the worm? - But, because there are several individuals now, it does not follow that there was not a single individual just before. No doubt, when I have seen several drawers fall from a chest, I have no longer the right to say that the article was all of one piece. but the fact is that there can be nothing more in the present of the chest of drawers than there was in the past, and if it is made up of several different pieces now, it was so from the date of its manufacture. Generally speaking, unorganised bodies, which are what we have need of in order that we may act, and on which we have modelled our fashion of thinking, are regulated by this simple law: the present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause. But suppose that the distinctive feature of the organised body is that is grows and changes without ceasing, as indeed the most superficial observation testifies, there would be nothing astonishing in the fact that it was one in the first instance, and afterwars many. The reproduction of unicellular organisms consist in just this - the living being divides into two halves, of which each is a complete individual. Ture, in the more complex animals, nature localizes in the almost independent sexual cells the power of producing the whole anew. But something of this power may remain diffused in teh rest of the organism, as the facts of regeneration prove, and it is conceivable that in certain privileged cases the faculty may persist integrally in a latent condition and manifest itself on the first opportunity. In turth, that I may have the right to speak of individuality, it is not necessary that the organism should be without the power to divide into fragments that are able to live. It is sufficient that it should have presented a certain systematisation of parts before the division, and that the same systematisation tend to be reproduced in each separate portion afterwards. Now, that is precisely what we observe in the organic world. We may conclude, then, that individuality is never perfect, and that is is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to tell what is an individual, and what is not, but that life nevertheless manifests a search for individuality, as if it strove to constitute systems naturally isolated, naturally closed.
Wherever anything lives, there is, open somewhere, a register in which time is being inscribed. (Key Writings, p.178-180)
The old philosophers can be so charming