What is an organism? An immunological answer

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 32 (2-3):247-267 (2010)
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The question “What is an organism?”, formerly considered as essential in biology, has now been increasingly replaced by a larger question, “What is a biological individual?”. On the grounds that i) individuation is theory-dependent, and ii) physiology does not offer a theory, biologists and philosophers of biology have claimed that it is the theory of evolution by natural selection which tells us what counts as a biological individual. Here I show that one physiological field, immunology, offers a theory, which makes possible a biological individuation based on physiological grounds. I give a new answer to the question of the individuation of an organism by linking together the evolutionary and the immunological approaches to biological individuation

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Thomas Pradeu
CNRS & University Of Bordeaux


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