On Polanyi, Clayton, and Biology

Tradition and Discovery 29 (3):20-22 (2002)
Michael Polanyi critiqued the then burgeoning field of molecular biology and the neo-Darwinian synthesis that has since come to characterize the structure of modern biology. He pointed out correctly that the reductionistic approach lacked explanatory power in the case of living systems. Philip Clayton addresses the importance of Polanyi’s thinking, even though it was not appreciated at the time it was presented. He argues, however, that while some aspects of Polanyi’s biological perspective are important in considering emergent phenomenon, other ideas are less well received in the modern era. This article discusses the pros and cons of the Clayton view and presents a model for a biological structure that might embrace emergence and supervenience
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