Conceptual Challenges in the Theoretical Foundations of Systems Biology

In Mariano Bizzarri (ed.), Systems Biology. New York: Springer, Humana Press. pp. 1-13 (2018)
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In the last decade, Systems Biology has emerged as a conceptual and explanatory alternative to reductionist-based approaches in molecular biology. However, the foundations of this new discipline need to be fleshed out more carefully. In this paper, we claim that a relational ontology is a necessary tool to ground both the conceptual and explanatory aspects of Systems Biology. A relational ontology holds that relations are prior—both conceptually and explanatory—to entities, and that in the biological realm entities are defined primarily by the context they are embedded within—and hence by the web of relations they are part of.



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