Individuating Part-whole Relations in the Biological World

In O. Bueno, R.-L. Chen & M. B. Fagan (eds.), Individuation Across Experimental and Theoretical Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2018)
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What are the conditions under which one biological object is a part of another biological object? This paper answers this question by developing a general, systematic account of biological parthood. I specify two criteria for biological parthood. Substantial Spatial Inclusionrequires biological parts to be spatially located inside or in the region that the natural boundary of t he biological whole occupies. Compositional Relevance captures the fact that a biological part engages in a biological process that must make a necessary contribution to a condition that is minimally sufficient to one or more of the characteristic behaviors of the biological whole. Instead of emphasizing the diversity of part-whole relations in the biological world, this paper asks what biological part-whole relations have in common and what constrains their existence, in general. After presenting the two criteria for biological parthood I discuss in how far my account can cope with hard cases (e.g., redundant parts) and I reveal the merits and limits of monism.



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Marie I. Kaiser
Bielefeld University

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