Individuality and Aggregativity

Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (11) (2017)
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Abstract

Why is there a specific problem with biological individuality? Because the living realm contains a wide range of exotic particular concrete entities that do not easily match our ordinary concept of an individual. Slime moulds, dandelions, siphonophores are among the Odd Entities that excite the ontological zeal of the philosophers of biology. Most of these philosophers, however, seem to believe that these Odd Cases oblige us to refine or revise our common concept of an individual. They think, explicitly or tacitly, that to be a living, evolutionary entity is to be a living individual. In this paper, we explore an alternative proposal: the variety and oddity of the forms of the living realm might be ontologically regimented through an increase in the categorial complexity of the living realm, by admitting, beside living individuals, living non-individuals or by acknowledging, more generally, that the evolutionary development of the living forms is not necessarily a process of building individuals, that life is not necessarily individuals-oriented. We claim that, from an ontological point of view, the spectacle of the living realm obliges us to take aggregativity seriously.

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