The Multiple Realizability of Biological Individuals

Journal of Philosophy 110 (8):413-435 (2013)
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Biological theory demands a clear organism concept, but at present biologists cannot agree on one. They know that counting particular units, and not counting others, allows them to generate explanatory and predictive descriptions of evolutionary processes. Yet they lack a unified theory telling them which units to count. In this paper, I offer a novel account of biological individuality, which reconciles conflicting definitions of ‘organism’ by interpreting them as describing alternative realisers of a common functional role, and then defines individual organisms as essentially possessing some mechanisms that play this role.

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Ellen Clarke
University of Leeds


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