On emergence, agency, and organization

Biology and Philosophy 21 (4):501-521 (2006)
Abstract
Ultimately we will only understand biological agency when we have developed a theory of the organization of biological processes, and science is still a long way from attaining that goal. It may be possible nonetheless to develop a list of necessary conditions for the emergence of minimal biological agency. The authors offer a model of molecular autonomous agents which meets the five minimal physical conditions that are necessary (and, we believe, conjointly sufficient) for applying agential language in biology: autocatalytic reproduction; work cycles; boundaries for reproducing individuals; self-propagating work and constraint construction; and choice and action that have evolved to respond to food or poison. When combined with the arguments from preadaptation and multiple realizability, the existence of these agents is sufficient to establish ontological emergence as against what one might call Weinbergian reductionism. Minimal biological agents are emphatically not conscious agents, and accepting their existence does not commit one to any robust theory of human agency. Nor is there anything mystical, dualistic, or non-empirical about the emergence of agency in the biosphere. Hence the emergence of molecular autonomous agents, and indeed ontological emergence in general, is not a negation of or limitation on careful biological study but simply one of its implications
Keywords Autocatalysis  Autonomous agents  Emergence  Preadaptation  Reductionism  Theory of organization  Semiotics  Teleology  Underdetermination of biology by physics  Work cycle
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,346
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA
James Barham (2012). Normativity, Agency, and Life. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):92-103.

View all 6 citations

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

97 ( #11,073 of 1,096,661 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #39,873 of 1,096,661 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.