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  1. Plants as Machines: History, Philosophy and Practical Consequences of an Idea.Sophie Gerber & Quentin Hiernaux - 2022 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 35 (1):1-24.
    This paper elucidates the philosophical origins of the conception of plants as machines and analyses the contemporary technical and ethical consequences of that thinking. First, we explain the historical relationship between the explicit animal machine thesis of Descartes and the implicit plant machine thesis of today. Our hypothesis is that, although it is rarely discussed, the plant machine thesis remains influential. We define the philosophical criteria for both a moderate and radical interpretation of the thesis. Then, assessing the compatibility of (...)
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  • Health and Environment From Adaptation to Adaptivity: A Situated Relational Account.Laura Menatti, Leonardo Bich & Cristian Saborido - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (3):1-28.
    The definitions and conceptualizations of health, and the management of healthcare have been challenged by the current global scenarios (e.g., new diseases, new geographical distribution of diseases, effects of climate change on health, etc.) and by the ongoing scholarship in humanities and science. In this paper we question the mainstream definition of health adopted by the WHO—‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHO in Preamble to the constitution of (...)
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  • An Enactive-Developmental Systems Framing of Cognizing Systems.Amanda Corris - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-21.
    Organisms live not as discrete entities on which an independent environment acts, but as members of a reproductive lineage in an ongoing series of interactions between that lineage and a dynamic ecological niche. These interactions continuously shape both systems in a reciprocal manner, resulting in the emergence of reliably co-occurring configurations within and between both systems. The enactive approach to cognition describes this relationship as the structural coupling between an organism and its environment; similarly, Developmental Systems Theory emphasizes the reciprocal (...)
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  • Open-Ended Control Vs. Closed-Ended Control: Limits of Mechanistic Explanation.Jason Winning - manuscript
    Some recent discussions of mechanistic explanation have focused on control operations. But control is often associated with teleological or normative-sounding concepts like goals and set-points, prompting the question: Does an explanation that refers to parts or mechanisms “controlling” each other thereby fail to be mechanistic? In this paper I introduce and explain a distinction between what I call open-ended and closed-ended control operations. I then argue that explanations that enlist control operations to do explanatory work can count as mechanistic only (...)
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  • Mechanism, Autonomy and Biological Explanation.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-27.
    The new mechanists and the autonomy approach both aim to account for how biological phenomena are explained. One identifies appeals to how components of a mechanism are organized so that their activities produce a phenomenon. The other directs attention towards the whole organism and focuses on how it achieves self-maintenance. This paper discusses challenges each confronts and how each could benefit from collaboration with the other: the new mechanistic framework can gain by taking into account what happens outside individual mechanisms, (...)
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  • A Continuum of Intentionality: Linking the Biogenic and Anthropogenic Approaches to Cognition.Matthew Sims - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-31.
    Biogenic approaches investigate cognition from the standpoint of evolutionary function, asking what cognition does for a living system and then looking for common principles and exhibitions of cognitive strategies in a vast array of living systems—non-neural to neural. One worry which arises for the biogenic approach is that it is overly permissive in terms of what it construes as cognition. In this paper I critically engage with a recent instance of this way of criticising biogenic approaches in order to clarify (...)
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  • Organization Needs Organization: Understanding Integrated Control in Living Organisms.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 93:96-106.
    Organization figures centrally in the understanding of biological systems advanced by both new mechanists and proponents of the autonomy framework. The new mechanists focus on how components of mechanisms are organized to produce a phenomenon and emphasize productive continuity between these components. The autonomy framework focuses on how the components of a biological system are organized in such a way that they contribute to the maintenance of the organisms that produce them. In this paper we analyze and compare these two (...)
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  • Control Mechanisms: Explaining the Integration and Versatility of Biological Organisms.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2022 - Adaptive Behavior.
    Living organisms act as integrated wholes to maintain themselves. Individual actions can each be explained by characterizing the mechanisms that perform the activity. But these alone do not explain how various activities are coordinated and performed versatilely. We argue that this depends on a specific type of mechanism, a control mechanism. We develop an account of control by examining several extensively studied control mechanisms operative in the bacterium E. coli. On our analysis, what distinguishes a control mechanism from other mechanisms (...)
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