Chance between holism and reductionism: tensions in the conceptualisation of Life

Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (2012)
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Abstract

In debates between holism and reductionism in biology, from the early 20th century to more recent re-enactments involving genetic reductionism, developmental systems theory, or systems biology, the role of chance – the presence of theories invoking chance as a strong explanatory principle – is hardly ever acknowledged. Conversely, Darwinian models of chance and selection (Dennett 1995, Kupiec 1996, Kupiec 2009) sit awkwardly with reductionist and holistic concepts, which they alternately challenge or approve of. I suggest that the juxtaposition of chance and the holism-reductionism pair (at multiple levels, ontological and methodological, pertaining to the vision of scientific practice as well as to the foundations of a vision of Nature, implicit or explicit) allows the theorist to shed some new light on these perennial tensions in the conceptualisation of Life.

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Charles T. Wolfe
Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès

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“What is living and What is Dead” in materialism?John H. Zammito - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 67:89-96.

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