What are individuals? How can they be identified? These are crucial questions for philosophers and scientists alike. Criteria of individuality seem to differ markedly between metaphysics and the empirical sciences - and this might well explain why no work has hitherto attempted to relate the contributions of metaphysics, physics and biology on this question. This timely volume brings together various strands of research into 'individuality', examining how different sciences handle the issue, and reflecting on how this scientific work relates to (...) metaphysical concerns. The collection makes a major contribution to clarifying and overcoming obstacles to the construction of a general conception of the individual adequate for both physics and biology, and perhaps even beyond. (shrink)
Immunology is central to contemporary biology and medicine, but it also provides novel philosophical insights. Its most significant contribution to philosophy concerns the understanding of biological individuality: what a biological individual is, what makes it unique, how its boundaries are established and what ensures its identity through time. Immunology also offers answers to some of the most interesting philosophical questions. What is the definition of life? How are bodily systems delineated? How do the mind and the body interact? In this (...) Element, Thomas Pradeu considers the ways in which immunology can shed light on these and other important philosophical issues. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The definition of biological individuality is one of the most discussed topics in philosophy of biology, but current debate has focused almost exclusively on evolution-based accounts. Moreover, several participants in this debate consider the notions of a biological individual and an organism as equivalent. In this paper, I show that the debates would be considerably enriched and clarified if philosophers took into account two elements. First, physiological fields are crucial for the understanding of biological individuality. Second, the category of biological (...) individuals should be divided into two subcategories: physiological individuals and evolutionary individuals, which suggests that the notions of organism and biological individual should not be used interchangeably. I suggest that the combination of an evolutionary and a physiological perspective will enable biologists and philosophers to supply an account of biological individuality that will be both more comprehensive and more in accordance with scientific practices. (shrink)
Biological individuality is a major topic of discussion in biology and philosophy of biology. Recently, several objections have been raised against traditional accounts of biological individuality, including the objections of monism, theory-centrism, ahistoricity, disciplinary isolationism, and the multiplication of conceptual uncertainties. In this introduction, I will examine the current philosophical landscape about biological individuality, and show how the contributions gathered in this special issue address these five objections. Overall, the aim of this issue is to offer a more diverse, unifying, (...) and scientifically informed conception of what a biological individual is. (shrink)
Several advocates of the lively field of “metaphysics of science” have recently argued that a naturalistic metaphysics should be based solely on current science, and that it should replace more traditional, intuition-based, forms of metaphysics. The aim of the present paper is to assess that claim by examining the relations between metaphysics of science and general metaphysics. We show that the current metaphysical battlefield is richer and more complex than a simple dichotomy between “metaphysics of science” and “traditional metaphysics”, and (...) that it should instead be understood as a three dimensional “box”, with one axis distinguishing “descriptive metaphysics” from “revisionary metaphysics”, a second axis distinguishing a priori from a posteriori metaphysics, and a third axis distinguishing “commonsense metaphysics”, “traditional metaphysics” and “metaphysics of science”. We use this three-dimensional figure to shed light on the project of current metaphysics of science, and to demonstrate that, in many instances, the target of that project is not defined with enough precision and clarity. (shrink)
Is it possible to explain and predict the development of living things? What is development? Articulate answers to these seemingly innocuous questions are far from straightforward. To date, no systematic, targeted effort has been made to construct a unifying theory of development. This novel work offers a unique exploration of the foundations of ontogeny by asking how the development of living things should be understood. It explores the key concepts of developmental biology, asks whether general principles of development can be (...) discovered, and examines the role of models and theories.The two editors have assembled a team of leading contributors who are representative of the scientific and philosophical community within which a diversity of thoughts are growing, and out of which a theory of development may eventually emerge. They analyse a wealth of approaches to concepts, models and theories of development, such as gene regulatory networks, accounts based on systems biology and on physics of soft matter, the different articulations of evolution and development, symbiont-induced development, as well as the widely discussed concepts of positional information and morphogenetic field, the idea of a. (shrink)
Since the 1950s, the common view of development has been internalist: development is seen as the result of the unfolding of potentialities already present in the egg cell. In this paper I show that this view is incorrect, because of the crucial influence of the environment on development. I focus on a fascinating example, that of the role played by symbioses in development, especially bacterial symbioses, a phenomenon found in virtually all organisms. I claim that we must consequently modify our (...) conception of the boundaries of the developing entity, and I show how immunology can help us in accomplishing this task. I conclude that the developing entity encompasses many elements traditionally seen as “foreign”, while I reject the idea that there is no possible distinction between the organism and its environment. (shrink)
Though viruses have generally been characterized by their pathogenic and more generally harmful effects, many examples of mutualistic viruses exist. Here I explain how the idea of mutualistic viruses has been defended in recent virology, and I explore four important conceptual and practical consequences of this idea. I ask to what extent this research modifies the way scientists might search for new viruses, our notion of how the host immune system interacts with microbes, the development of new therapeutic approaches, and, (...) finally, the role played by the criterion of autonomy in our understanding of living things. Overall, I suggest that the recognition of mutualistic viruses plays a major role in a wider ongoing revision of our conception of viruses. (shrink)
The self/non-self model, first proposed by F.M. Burnet, has dominated immunology for 60 years now. According to this model, any foreign element will trigger an immune reaction in an organism, whereas endogenous elements will not, in normal circumstances, induce an immune reaction. In this paper we show that the self/non-self model is no longer an appropriate explanation of experimental data in immunology, and that this inadequacy may be rooted in an excessively strong metaphysical conception of biological identity. We suggest that (...) another hypothesis, one based on the notion of continuity, gives a better account of immune phenomena. Finally, we underscore the mapping between this metaphysical deflation from self to continuity in immunology and the philosophical debate between substantialism and empiricism about identity. (shrink)
The concept of genidentity has been proposed as a way to better understand identity through time, especially in physics and biology. The genidentity view is utterly anti-substantialist in so far as it suggests that the identity of X through time does not presuppose whatsoever the existence of a permanent “core” or “substrate” of X. Yet applications of this concept to real science have been scarce and unsatisfying. In this paper, our aim is to show that a well-defined concept of functional (...) genidentity can be crucial to shed light on identity through time in classical physics and especially in biology. Finally, we show that understanding identity on the basis of continuity suggests a move towards an ontology of processes. (shrink)
Which domains of biology do philosophers of biology primarily study? The fact that philosophy of biology has been dominated by an interest for evolutionary biology is widely admitted, but it has not been strictly demonstrated. Here I analyse the topics of all the papers published in Biology & Philosophy, just as the journal celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. I then compare the distribution of biological topics in Biology & Philosophy with that of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of (...) Science of the USA, focusing on the recent period 2003–2015. This comparison reveals a significant mismatch between the distributions of these topics. I examine plausible explanations for that mismatch. Finally, I argue that many biological topics underrepresented in philosophy of biology raise important philosophical issues and should therefore play a more central role in future philosophy of biology. (shrink)
A crucial question for a process view of life is how to identify a process and how to follow it through time. The genidentity view can contribute decisively to this project. It says that the identity through time of an entity X is given by a well-identified series of continuous states of affairs. Genidentity helps address the problem of diachronic identity in the living world. This chapter describes the centrality of the concept of genidentity for David Hull and proposes an (...) extension of Hull’s view to the ubiquitous phenomenon of symbiosis. Finally, using immunology as a key example, it shows that the genidentity view suggests that the main interest of a process approach is epistemological rather than ontological and that its principal claim is one of priority, namely that processes precede and define things, and not vice versa. (shrink)
This chapter introduces the main issues and themes of the volume. Approaches to individuality from metaphysics and philosophy of science are contrasted. Recent philosophical developments regarding concepts of biological and physical individuality are exposed. These research trends show how philosophy of physics and philosophy of biology address differently the question of what an individual is. Five main divergences are identified: the centrality of part-whole questions, the issue of identical individuals, the importance of the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles and, (...) finally, the importance of structuralist concerns. At the end of the chapter, the structure of the book is explained in detail. (shrink)
The main objective of immunology is to establish why and when an immune response occurs, that is, to determine a criterion of immunogenicity. According to the consensus view, the proper criterion of immunogenicity lies in the discrimination between self and nonself. Here we challenge this consensus by suggesting a simpler and more comprehensive criterion, the criterion of continuity. Moreover, we show that this criterion may be considered as an interpretation of the immune 'self'. We conclude that immunologists can continue to (...) speak of the self, provided that they admit that the self/nonself discrimination is not an adequate criterion of immunogenicity. (shrink)
Viruses have been virtually absent from philosophy of biology. In this editorial introduction, we explain why we think viruses are philosophically important. We focus on six issues, and we show how they relate to classic questions of philosophy of biology and even general philosophy.
This special issue of Biological Theory is focused on development; it raises the problem of the temporal and spatial boundaries of development. From a temporal point of view, when does development start and stop? From a spatial point of view, what is it exactly that "develops", and is it possible to delineate clearly the developing entity? This issue explores the possible answers to these questions, and thus sheds light on the definition of development itself.
Since, it has become clear that individuality is not to be considered as a given, but rather as something which needs to be explained. How has individuality emerged through evolution, and how has it subsequently been maintained? In particular, why is it that multicellular organisms appeared and persisted, despite the obvious interest of each cell of favoring its own replication? Several biologists see the immune system as one of the key components for explaining the maintenance of multicellular organisms’ individuality. Indeed, (...) the immune system exerts a constant surveillance on all the constituents of the organism, including “cheaters” like tumor cells, which favor their own replication at the expense of the whole organism. In most cases, the immune system eliminates those cheaters. This is the “immune surveillance” hypothesis, first suggested by Burnet and Thomas. In this paper, I account for recent findings on immune surveillance in order to determine the precise role of the immune system in the emergence and maintenance of individuality. This investigation gives rise to a critical question for the domain of biological individuality: should immunity be considered as something unique to multicellular organisms? If it is indeed unique, should the multicellular organism be considered as an individual to a higher degree than any other living entity? If it is not unique, what precisely are the equivalents of the immune system in other living individuals? (shrink)
Immunology — though deeply experimental in everyday practice — is also a theoretical discipline. Recent advances in the understanding of innate immunity, how it is triggered and how it shares features that have previously been uniquely ascribed to the adaptive immune system, can contribute to the refinement of the theoretical framework of immunology. In particular, natural killer cells and macrophages are activated by transient modifications, but adapt to long-lasting modifications that occur in the surrounding tissue environment. This process facilitates the (...) maintenance of self-tolerance while permitting efficient immune responses. In this Essay we extend this idea to other components of the immune system and we propose some general principles that lay the foundations for a unifying theory of immunity — the discontinuity theory. According to this theoretical framework, effector immune responses (namely, activated responses that lead to the potential elimination of the target antigen) are induced by an antigenic discontinuity; that is, by the sudden modification of molecular motifs with which immune cells interact. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the question of what the Developmental Systems Theory (DST) aims at explaining. I distinguish two lines of thought in DST, one which deals specifically with development, and tries to explain the development of the individual organism, and the other which presents itself as a reconceptualization of evolution, and tries to explain the evolution of populations of developmental systems (organism-environment units). I emphasize that, despite the claiming of the contrary by DST proponents, there are two very (...) different definitions of the ‘developmental system’, and therefore DST is not a unified theory of evolution and development. I show that the DST loses the most interesting aspects of its reconceptualization of development when it tries to reconceptualize evolutionary theory. I suggest that DST is about development per se, and that it fails at offering a new view on evolution. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to provide a theoretical framework to understand how multicellular systems realize functionally integrated physiological entities by organizing their intercellular space. From a perspective centered on physiology and integration, biological systems are often characterized as organized in such a way that they realize metabolic self-production and self-maintenance. The existence and activity of their components rely on the network they realize and on the continuous management of the exchange of matter and energy with their environment. One (...) of the virtues of the organismic approach focused on organization is that it can provide an understanding of how biological systems are functionally integrated into coherent wholes. Organismic frameworks have been primarily developed by focusing on unicellular life. Multicellularity, however, presents additional challenges to our understanding of biological systems, related to how cells are capable to live together in higher-order entities, in such a way that some of their features and behaviors are constrained and controlled by the system they realize. Whereas most accounts of multicellularity focus on cell differentiation and increase in size as the main elements to understand biological systems at this level of organization, we argue that these factors are insufficient to provide an understanding of how cells are physically and functionally integrated in a coherent system. In this paper, we provide a new theoretical framework to understand multicellularity, capable to overcome these issues. Our thesis is that one of the fundamental theoretical principles to understand multicellularity, which is missing or underdeveloped in current accounts, is the functional organization of the intercellular space. In our view, the capability to be organized in space plays a central role in this context, as it enables (and allows to exploit all the implications of) cell differentiation and increase in size, and even specialized functions such as immunity. We argue that the extracellular matrix plays a crucial active role in this respect, as an evolutionary ancient and specific (non-cellular) control subsystem that contributes as a key actor to the functional specification of the multicellular space and to modulate cell fate and behavior. We also analyze how multicellular systems exert control upon internal movement and communication. Finally, we show how the organization of space is involved in some of the failures of multicellular organization, such as aging and cancer. (shrink)
In this article, I address the question of what Developmental Systems Theory aims at explaining. I distinguish two lines of thought in DST, one that deals specifically with development and tries to explain the development of the individual organism, and the other that presents itself as a reconceptualization of evolution and tries to explain the evolution of populations of developmental systems. I emphasize that, despite the claim of the contrary by DST proponents, there are two very different definitions of the (...) “developmental system,” and therefore DST is not a unified theory of evolution and development. I show that DST loses the most interesting aspects of its reconceptualization of development when it tries to reconceptualize evolutionary theory. I suggest that DST is about development per se, and that it fails at offering a new view on evolution. (shrink)
This volume is the best available tool to compare and appraise the different approaches of today’s biology and their conceptual frameworks, serving as a springboard for new research on a clarified conceptual basis. It is expected to constitute a key reference work for biologists and philosophers of biology, as well as for all scientists interested in understanding what is at stake in the present transformations of biological models and theories. The volume is distinguished by including, for the first time, self-reflections (...) and exchanges of views on practice and theoretical attitudes by important participants in recent biological debates. The questions of how biological models and theories are constructed, how concepts are chosen and how different models can be articulated, are asked. Then the book explores some of these convergences between different models or theoretical frameworks. Confronting views on adaptive complexity are investigated, as well as the role of self-organization in evolution; niche construction meets developmental biology; the promises of the emergent field of ecological-evolutionary-development are examined. In sum, this book is a marvellous account of the dynamism of today’s theoretical biology. Foreword: Carving Nature at its Joints? Richard Lewontin Chapter 1: Introduction Anouk Barberousse, Michel Morange, Thomas Pradeu Chapter 2: Articulating Different Modes of Explanation: The Present Boundary in Biological Research Michel Morange Chapter 3: Compromising Positions: The Minding of Matter Susan Oyama Chapter 4:ions, Idealizations, and Evolutionary Biology Peter Godfrey-Smith Chapter 5: The Adequacy of Model Systems for Evo-Devo: Modeling the Formation Of Organisms / Modeling the Formation Of Society Scott F. Gilbert Chapter 6: Niche Construction in Evolution, Ecosystems and Developmental Biology John Odling-Smee Chapter 7: Novelty, Plasticity and Niche Construction: The Influence of Phenotypic Variation on Evolution Kim Sterelny Chapter 8: The Evolution of Complexity Mark A. Bedau Chapter 9: Self-Organization, Self-Assembly, and the Origin of Life Evelyn Fox Keller Chapter 10: Self-Organization and Complexity in Evolutionary Theory, or, In this Life the Bread Always Falls Jammy Side Down Michael Ruse. (shrink)
In this commentary of Koonin’s target paper, we defend an extended view of CRISPR-Cas immunity by arguing that CRISPR-Cas includes, but cannot be reduced to, defence against nonself. CRISPR-Cas systems can target endogenous elements and tolerate exogenous elements. We conclude that the vocabulary of “defence” and “nonself” might be misleading when describing CRISPR-Cas systems.
Is it possible, and in the first place is it even desirable, to define what "development" means and to determine the scope of the field called "developmental biology"? Though these questions appeared crucial for the founders of "developmental biology" in the 1950s, there seems to be no consensus today about the need to address them. Here, in a combined biological, philosophical, and historical approach, we ask whether it is possible and useful to define biological development, and, if such a definition (...) is indeed possible and useful, which definition can be considered as the most satisfactory. (shrink)
In this paper, we provide a macro level analysis of the visibility of philosophy of science in the sciences over the last four decades. Our quantitative analysis of publications and citations of philosophy of science papers, published in 17 main journals representing the discipline, contributes to the longstanding debate on the influence of philosophy of science on the sciences. It reveals the global structure of relationships that philosophy of science maintains with science, technology, engineering and mathematics and social sciences and (...) humanities fields. Explored at the level of disciplines, journals and authors, this analysis of the relations between philosophy of science and a large and diversified array of disciplines allows us to answer several questions: what is the degree of openness of various disciplines to the specialized knowledge produced in philosophy of science? Which STEM and SSH fields and journals have privileged ties with philosophy of science? What are the characteristics, in terms of citation and publication patterns, of authors who get their philosophy of science papers cited outside their field? Complementing existing qualitative inquiries on the influence of specific authors, concepts or topics of philosophy of science, the bibliometric approach proposed in this paper offers a comprehensive portrait of the multiple relationships that links philosophy of science to the sciences. (shrink)
Dans Science, Perception and Reality, Sellars distingue l’image manifeste de l’homme et l’image scientifique de l’homme. La première est obtenue à partir de la façon dont nous prenons conscience de nous-mêmes comme humains dans le monde. La seconde correspond à ce que les différentes sciences nous amènent à postuler sur la manière dont l’homme est constitué. Van Fraassen, lui, étend au monde ces concepts...
Resident microbiota do not just shape host immunity, they can also contribute to host protection against pathogens and infectious diseases. Previous reviews of the protective roles of the microbiota have focused exclusively on colonization resistance localized within a microenvironment. This review shows that the protection against pathogens also involves the mitigation of pathogenic impact without eliminating the pathogens (i.e., “disease tolerance”) and the containment of microorganisms to prevent pathogenic spread. Protective microorganisms can have an impact beyond their niche, interfering with (...) the entry, establishment, growth, and spread of pathogenic microorganisms. More fundamentally, we propose a series of conceptual clarifications in support of the idea of a “co-immunity,” where an organism is protected by both its own immune system and components of its microbiota. -/- . (shrink)
Griffiths and Stotz’s Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction offers a very good overview of scientific and philosophical issues raised by present-day genetics. Examining, in particular, the questions of how a “gene” should be defined and what a gene does from a causal point of view, the authors explore the different domains of the life sciences in which genetics has come to play a decisive role, from Mendelian genetics to molecular genetics, behavioural genetics, and evolution. In this review, I highlight what (...) I consider as the two main theses of the book, namely: genes are better conceived as tools; genes become causes only in a context. I situate these two theses in the wider perspective of developmental systems theory. This leads me to emphasize that Griffiths and Stotz reflect very well an on going process in genetics, which I call the “epigenetization” of genetics, i.e., the growing interest in the complex processes by which gene activation is regulated. I then make a factual objection, which is that Griffiths and Stotz have almost entirely neglected the perspective of ecological developmental biology, and more precisely recent work on developmental symbioses, and I suggest that this omission is unfortunate in so far as an examination of developmental symbioses would have considerably strengthened Griffiths and Stotz’s own conclusions. (shrink)