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A Manifesto for a Processual Philosophy of Biology

In Daniel J. Nicholson & John A. Dupre (eds.), Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology (2018)

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  1. Homology thinking reconciles the conceptual conflict between typological and population thinking.Daichi G. Suzuki - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-17.
    This paper attempts to reconcile the conceptual conflict between typological and population thinking to provide a philosophical foundation for extended evolutionary synthesis. Typological thinking has been considered a pre-Darwinian, essentialist dogma incompatible with population thinking, which is the core notion of Darwinism. More recent philosophical and historical studies suggest that a non-essentialist form of typology has some advantages in the study of evolutionary biology. However, even if we adopt such an epistemological interpretation of typological thinking, there still remains an epistemological (...)
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  • Constitutive Relevance and Mutual Manipulability Revisited.Carl F. Craver, Stuart Glennan & Mark Povich - forthcoming - Synthese:1-22.
    An adequate understanding of the ubiquitous practice of mechanistic explanation requires an account of what Craver (2007) termed “constitutive relevance.” Entities or activities are constitutively relevant to a phenomenon when they are parts of the mechanism responsible for that phenomenon. Craver’s mutual manipulability (MM) account extended Woodward’s account of manipulationist counterfactuals to analyze how interlevel experiments establish constitutive relevance. Critics of MM (e.g., Baumgartner and Gebharter 2016 and Baumgartner and Casini 2017) argue that applying Woodward’s account to this philosophical problem (...)
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  • Molecular Pathways and the Contextual Explanation of Molecular Functions.Giovanni Boniolo & Raffaella Campaner - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):24.
    Much of the recent philosophical debate on causation and causal explanation in the biological and biomedical sciences has focused on the notion of mechanism. Mechanisms, their nature and epistemic roles have been tackled by a range of so-called neo-mechanistic theories, and widely discussed. Without denying the merits of this approach, our paper aims to show how lately it has failed to give proper credit to processes, which are central to the field, especially of contemporary molecular biology. Processes can be summed (...)
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  • Causation and Information: Where Is Biological Meaning to Be Found?Mark Pharoah - 2020 - Biosemiotics 13 (3):309-326.
    The term ‘information’ is used extensively in biology, cognitive science and the philosophy of consciousness in relation to the concepts of ‘meaning’ and ‘causation’. While ‘information’ is a term that serves a useful purpose in specific disciplines, there is much to the concept that is problematic. Part 1 is a critique of the stance that information is an independently existing entity. On this view, and in biological contexts, systems transmit, acquire, assimilate, decode and manipulate it, and in so doing, generate (...)
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  • Chinese Processual Holism and Its Attitude Towards “Barbarians” and Non-Humans.Shuchen Xiang - forthcoming - Sophia:1-24.
    This paper argues that the ‘processual holism’ of Chinese metaphysics explains its characteristic attitude towards non-humans such as animals and demons. As all things are constantly in process and form a continuum, it follows that ontological distinctions between ‘species’ become impossible to delimit. The distinctions one makes are instead understood as perspectival and provisional. These metaphysical assumptions explain the lack of interest in the Chinese tradition for classifying the distinctions between humans and non-human. We see many examples of the different (...)
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  • Zoocentrism in the weeds? Cultivating plant models for cognitive yield.Adam Linson & Paco Calvo - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (5):1-27.
    It remains at best controversial to claim, non-figuratively, that plants are cognitive agents. At the same time, it is taken as trivially true that many animals are cognitive agents, arguably through an implicit or explicit appeal to natural science. Yet, any given definition of cognition implicates at least some further processes, such as perception, action, memory, and learning, which must be observed either behaviorally, psychologically, neuronally, or otherwise physiologically. Crucially, however, for such observations to be intelligible, they must be counted (...)
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  • Corporeal composition.Stuart Glennan - forthcoming - Synthese:1-24.
    What is it for an individual thing in the natural world—a rock, a mouse, a family or a planet—to be made of other things—crystals, organs, animals, soil, water, or dirt? Rocks, mice, families and planets are composites, but how are we to understand the relation that holds between these composites and their component parts? My aim is to offer a new account of this relation, which I shall call corporeal composition. A central claim of my account is that corporeal composition (...)
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  • What’s Wrong with Evolutionary Causation? [REVIEW]Jan Baedke - 2021 - Acta Biotheoretica 69 (1):79-89.
    This review essay reflects on recent discussions in evolutionary biology and philosophy of science on the central causes of evolution and the structure of causal explanations in evolutionary theory. In this debate, it has been argued that our view of evolutionary causation should be rethought by including more seriously developmental causes and causes of the individual acting organism. I use Tobias Uller’s and Kevin Laland’s volume Evolutionary Causation as well as recent reviews of it as a starting point to reflect (...)
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  • Natural, Un-Natural and Detached Mimicry.John Pickering - 2019 - Biosemiotics 12 (1):115-130.
    Natural mimicry is ubiquitous. Plants mimic animals, animals mimic plants, animals mimic each other and animals may even mimic counterfactual states that deceive or distract other animals. Almost all natural mimicry is based on iconicity which hence anchors it in real world resemblances. The vast majority of natural mimicry is done unconsciously but when humans mimic, they know what they are doing. As Merlin Donald suggest, mimicry may in fact have played a crucial role in the emergence of the human (...)
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  • Structural and Organisational Conditions for Being a Machine.Guglielmo Militello & Álvaro Moreno - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):35.
    Although the analogy between macroscopic machines and biological molecular devices plays an important role in the conceptual framework of both neo-mechanistic accounts and nanotechnology, it has recently been claimed that certain complex molecular devices cannot be considered machines since they are subject to physicochemical forces that are different from those of macroscopic machines. However, the structural and physicochemical conditions that allow both macroscopic machines and microscopic devices to work and perform new functions, through a combination of elemental functional parts, have (...)
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  • Token Physicalism and Functional Individuation.James DiFrisco - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (3):309-329.
    Token physicalism is often viewed as a modest and unproblematic physicalist commitment, as contrasted with type physicalism. This paper argues that the prevalence of functional individuation in biology creates serious problems for token physicalism, because the latter requires that biological entities can be individuated physically and without reference to biological functioning. After characterizing the main philosophical roles for token physicalism, I describe the distinctive uses of functional individuation in models of biological processes. I then introduce some requirements on token identity (...)
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  • Defining the Environment in Organism–Environment Systems.Amanda Corris - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11:1285.
    Enactivism and ecological psychology converge on the relevance of the environment in understanding perception and action. On both views, perceiving organisms are not merely passive receivers of environmental stimuli, but rather form a dynamic relationship with their environments in such a way that shapes how they interact with the world. In this paper, I suggest that while enactivism and ecological psychology enjoy a shared specification of the environment as the cognitive domain, on both accounts, the structure of the environment, itself, (...)
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  • The Biological Turn on Personal Identity: The Role of Science as a Response to Children’s Appropriation in Argentinian Dictatorship.Mariana Córdoba - 2019 - Foundations of Science 26 (2):1-23.
    The philosophical problem of personal identity has been widely discussed in contemporary analytic philosophy. The disputes over identity throughout time abound in references to thought experiments, excluding any connection to practical problems or to scientific knowledge and biotechnological practices. Nevertheless, some real cases challenge the pure metaphysical formulation of the problem and also show how science has an indubitable impact on the issue of identity. I will discuss the case of approximately 500 children who were appropriated during the most recent (...)
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  • The Reflex Machine and the Cybernetic Brain: The Critique of Abstraction and its Application to Computationalism.M. Chirimuuta - 2020 - Perspectives on Science 28 (3):421-457.
    Objections to the computational theory of cognition, inspired by twentieth century phenomenology, have tended to fixate on the embodiment and embeddedness of intelligence. In this paper I reconstruct a line of argument that focusses primarily on the abstract nature of scientific models, of which computational models of the brain are one sort. I observe that the critique of scientific abstraction was rather commonplace in the philosophy of the 1920s and 30s and that attention to it aids the reading of The (...)
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  • The Ethics and Ontology of Synthetic Biology: a Neo-Aristotelian Perspective.Lewis Coyne - 2020 - NanoEthics 14 (1):43-55.
    This article is concerned with two interrelated questions: what, if anything, distinguishes synthetic from natural organisms, and to what extent, if any, creating the former is of moral significance. These are ontological and ethical questions, respectively. As the title indicates, I address both from a broadly neo-Aristotelian perspective, i.e. a teleological philosophy of life and virtue ethics. For brevity’s sake, I shall not argue for either philosophical position at length, but instead hope to demonstrate their legitimacy through their explanatory power. (...)
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  • ‘Here Be Revisionary Metaphysics!’ A Critique of a Concern About Process Philosophy.Paul Giladi - forthcoming - Dialogue:1-19.
    ABSTRACT In this paper, I argue that John Dupré and Daniel Nicholson's ‘process manifesto’ is ironically more sympathetic to descriptive metaphysics than to revisionary metaphysics. Focusing on their argument that any process philosophy automatically slides into Whiteheadian obscurantism if it does not just rest content with revealing the problematic features of ordinary language, I argue that their position occludes a logical space, one in which revisionary metaphysics is articulated without any Whiteheadian obscurantism and involves no dereliction of critical/revisionary orientation. I (...)
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  • What is a Hologenomic Adaptation? Emergent Individuality and Inter-Identity in Multispecies Systems.Javier Suárez & Vanessa Triviño - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 187 (11).
    Contemporary biological research has suggested that some host–microbiome multispecies systems (referred to as “holobionts”) can in certain circumstances evolve as unique biological individual, thus being a unit of selection in evolution. If this is so, then it is arguably the case that some biological adaptations have evolved at the level of the multispecies system, what we call hologenomic adaptations. However, no research has yet been devoted to investigating their nature, or how these adaptations can be distinguished from adaptations at the (...)
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  • Organisms, activity, and being: on the substance of process ontology.Christopher J. Austin - 2020 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (2):1-21.
    According to contemporary ‘process ontology’, organisms are best conceptualised as spatio-temporally extended entities whose mereological composition is fundamentally contingent and whose essence consists in changeability. In contrast to the Aristotelian precepts of classical ‘substance ontology’, from the four-dimensional perspective of this framework, the identity of an organism is grounded not in certain collections of privileged properties, or features which it could not fail to possess, but in the succession of diachronic relations by which it persists, or ‘perdures’ as one entity (...)
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  • When the Part Mirrors the Whole: Interactions Beyond “Simple Location”.Alex Gomez-Marin & Juan Arnau - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
    Reductionism relies on expectations that it is possible to make sense of the whole by studying its parts, whereas emergentism considers that program to be unattainable, partly due to the existence of emergent properties. The emergentist holistic stance is particularly relevant in biology and cognitive neuroscience, where interactions amongst system components and environment are key. Here we consider Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy as providing important insights to metaphysics of science in general, and to the reductionism vs. emergentism debate in particular. (...)
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  • Infinity, Technology, Degeneracy: A Note on Werkhoven’s Dispositional Theory of Health.Shane N. Glackin - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz033.
    Werkhoven’s ‘A Dispositional Theory of Health’ is an important and original contribution to debates about the disease concept, which persuasively demonstrates that dispositions must play some role in a full account of what it is to be healthy or ill. Unfortunately, as a theory, it cannot as it stands be correct.I first demonstrate what appears to be a significant, and possibly fatal, flaw; the proliferation of dispositions which Werkhoven’s theory requires makes impossible, at least in the absence of significant further (...)
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  • Scientific Knowledge in the Age of Computation: Explicated, Computable and Manageable?Sophia Efstathiou, Rune Nydal, Astrid Laegreid & Martin Kuiper - 2019 - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 34 (2):213.
    We have two theses about scientific knowledge in the age of computation. Our general claim is that scientific Knowledge Management practices emerge as second-order practices whose aim is to systematically collect, take care of and mobilise first-hand disciplinary knowledge and data. Our specific thesis is that knowledge management practices are transforming biological research in at least three ways. We argue that scientific Knowledge Management a. operates with founded concepts of biological knowledge as explicated and computable, b. enables new outputs and (...)
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  • Realization in Biology?Sergio Balari & Guillermo Lorenzo - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1):5.
    It is widely assumed that functional and dispositional properties are not identical to their physical base, but that there is some kind of asymmetrical ontological dependence between them. In this regard, a popular idea is that the former are realized by the latter, which, under the non-identity assumption, is generally understood to be a non-causal, constitutive relation. In this paper we examine two of the most widely accepted approaches to realization, the so-called ‘flat view’ and the ‘dimensioned view’, and we (...)
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  • Why the Confucians Had No Concept of Race : The Antiessentialist Cultural Understanding of Self.Shuchen Xiang - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (10).
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