According to the traditional nomological-deductive methodology of physics and chemistry [Hempel and Oppenheim, 1948], explaining a phenomenon means subsuming it under a law. Logic becomes then the glue of explanation and laws the primary explainers. Thus, the scientiﬁc study of a system would consist in the development of a logically sound model of it, once the relevant observables (state variables) are identiﬁed and the general laws governing their change (expressed as diﬀerential equations, state transition rules, maximization/minimization principles,. . . ) (...) are well determined, together with the initial or boundary conditions for each particular case. Often this also involves making a set of assumptions about the elementary components of the system (e.g., their structural and dynamic properties) and modes of local interaction. In this framework, predictability becomes the main goal and that is why research is carried out through the construction of accurate mathematical models. Thus, physics and chemistry have made most progress so far by focusing on systems that, either due to their intrinsic properties or to the conditions in which they are investigated, allow for very strong simplifying assumptions, under which, nevertheless, those highly idealized models of reality are deemed to be in good correspondence with reality itself. Despite the enormous success that this methodology has had, the study of living and cognitive phenomena had to follow a very diﬀerent road, because these phenomena are produced by systems whose underlying material structure and organization do not permit such crude approximations. Seen from the perspective of physics or chemistry, biological and cognitive systems are made of an enormous number of parts or elements interacting in non-linear and selective ways, which makes very diﬃcult their tractability through mathematical models. In addition, many of those interacting elements are hierarchically organized, in a way that the “macroscopic” (observable) parts behave according to rules that cannot be, in practice, derived from simple principles at the level of their “microscopic” dynamics.. (shrink)
In this article, we propose some fundamental requirements for the appearance of adaptivity. We argue that a basic metabolic organization, taken in its minimal sense, may provide the conceptual framework for naturalizing the origin of teleology and normative functionality as it appears in living systems. However, adaptivity also requires the emergence of a regulatory subsystem, which implies a certain form of dynamic decoupling within a globally integrated, autonomous system. Thus, we analyze several forms of minimal adaptivity, including the special case (...) of motility. We go on to explain how an open-ended complexity growth of motility-based adaptive agency, namely, behavior, requires the appearance of the nervous system. Finally, we discuss some implications of these ideas for embodied robotics. (shrink)
Both the irreducible complexity of biological phenomena and the aim of a universalized biology (life-as-it-could-be) have lead to a deep methodological shift in the study of life; represented by the appearance of ALife, with its claim that computational modelling is the main tool for studying the general principles of biological phenomenology. However this methodological shift implies important questions concerning the aesthetic, engineering and specially the epistemological status of computational models in scientific research: halfway between the well established categories of theory (...) and experiment. ALife models become powerful epistemic artefacts allowing the simulation of emergent phenomena, the interaction between different levels of organization and the integration of different causal factors in the very same manipulable object. The use of computational models in ALife can be classified in four main categories depending on their position between theoretical and empirical practices: generic, conceptual, functional and mechanistic. For each of these categories we analyse their epistemic value and select paradigmatic examples that illustrate how ALife models can be fruitfully inserted in the study of life. (shrink)
We attempt to distinguish, in a biological frame, ontogenetical adaptation from learning. Ontogenetical adaptation arises as a second order (sensorimotor) loop on the ground of the operational closure that provides autonomy and reproductive identity to the living system. Adaptation ensures, through perception, the functional correlation between metabolicmotor states and the states of the environment. Learning brings about a qualitative change in regard to adaptation, the most generic and simple form of optimization at an individual scale. It implies the idea of (...) new knowledge, in the sense that the organism links what formerly appeared as an undistinguished whole. In other words, it means the capability to change its own codes of meaning. Finally, we outline some basic ideas for modelling an adaptive sensor embedded in a (partially) autonomous system, which implies the former distinction between adaptation and learning. (shrink)
Dynamicism has provided cognitive science with important tools to understand some aspects of “how cognitive agents work” but the issue of “what makes something cognitive” has not been sufficiently addressed yet and, we argue, the former will never be complete without the latter. Behavioristic characterizations of cognitive properties are criticized in favor of an organizational approach focused on the internal dynamic relationships that constitute cognitive systems. A definition of cognition as adaptive-autonomy in the embodied and situated neurodynamic domain is provided: (...) the compensatory regulation of a web of stability dependencies between sensorimotor structures is created and preserved during a historical/developmental process. We highlight the functional role of emotional embodiment: internal bioregulatory processes coupled to the formation and adaptive regulation of neurodynamic autonomy. Finally, we discuss a “minimally cognitive behavior program” in evolutionary simulation modeling suggesting that much is to be learned from a complementary “minimally cognitive organization program”. (shrink)
In this paper we explore the organizational conditions underlying the emergence of organisms at the multicellular level. More specifically, we shall propose a general theoretical scheme according to which a multicellular organism is an ensemble of cells that effectively regulates its own development through collective (meta-cellular) mechanisms of control of cell differentiation and cell division processes. This theoretical result derives from the detailed study of the ontogenetic development of three multicellular systems (Nostoc punctiforme, Volvox carteri and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and, in (...) particular, of their corresponding cell-to-cell signaling networks. The case study supports our claim that a specific type of functional integration among the cells of a multicellular ensemble (namely, a regulatory control system consisting in several inter-cellular mechanisms that modulate epigenesis and whose operation gets decoupled from the intra-cellular metabolic machinery), is required for it to qualify as a proper organism. Finally, we argue why a multicellular system exhibiting this type of functionally differentiated and integrated developmental organization becomes a self-determining collective entity and, therefore, should be considered as a second-order autonomous system. (shrink)
In this paper, we advocate the idea that an adequate explanation of biological systems requires appealing to organizational closure as an emergent causal regime. We first develop a theoretical justification of emergence in terms of relatedness, by arguing that configurations, because of the relatedness among their constituents, possess ontologically irreducible properties, providing them with distinctive causal powers. We then focus on those emergent causal powers exerted as constraints, and we claim that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems in (...) that they realize a closure of constraints, i.e. a second-order emergent regime of causation such that the constituents, each of them acting as a constraint, realize a mutual dependence among them, and are collectively able to self-maintain. Lastly, we claim that closure can be justifiably taken as an emergent regime of causation, without admitting that it inherently involves whole-parts causation, which would require to commit to stronger ontological and epistemological assumptions. (shrink)
Functional language is ubiquitous in ecology, mainly in the researches about biodiversity and ecosystem function. However, it has not been adequately investigated by ecologists or philosophers of ecology. In the contemporary philosophy of ecology we can recognize a kind of implicit consensus about this issue: while the etiological approaches cannot offer a good concept of function in ecology, Cummins’ systemic approach can. Here we propose to go beyond this implicit consensus, because we think these approaches are not adequate for ecology. (...) We argue that a sound epistemological framework to function in ecology is to be found in organizational approaches. In this line, we define function in ecology as a precise effect of a given constraint on the ecosystem flow of matter and energy performed by a given item of biodiversity, within a closure of constraints. We elaborate on this definition by developing a case study of a bromeliad ecosystem. (shrink)
In this short contribution we explore the historical roots of recent synthetic approaches in biology and try to assess their real potential, as well as identify future hurdles or the reasons behind some of the main difficulties they currently face. We suggest that part of these difficulties might not be just the result of our present lack of adequate technical skills or understanding, but could spring directly from the nature of the biological phenomenon itself. In particular, if life is conceived (...) as autonomy in open-ended evolution, which would help to explain the highly complex and dynamic organization of the simplest known organisms (i.e., genetically-instructed cellular metabolisms), external synthetic implementations of such systems, or interventions on them, are bound to interfere with some of their characteristic transformation processes, both at the ontogenetic and phylogenetic scales. In any case, this will prove very revealing and productive, technologically and scientifically speaking, since the knowledge gathered from those implementations/interventions will be extremely valuable in establishing our capacities and limitations to fully comprehend, utilize, and expand the living domain as we know it today. (shrink)
Our aim in the present paper is to approach the nature of life from the perspective of autonomy, showing that this perspective can be helpful for overcoming the traditional Cartesian gap between the physical and cognitive domains. We first argue that, although the phenomenon of life manifests itself as highly complex and multidimensional, requiring various levels of description, individual organisms constitute the core of this multifarious phenomenology. Thereafter, our discussion focuses on the nature of the organization of individual living entities, (...) proposing autonomy as the main concept to grasp it. In the second part of the article we show how autonomy is also fundamental to explaining major evolutionary transitions, in an attempt to rethink evolution from the point of view of the organizational structure of the entities/organisms involved. This gives further support to the idea of autonomy not only as a key to understanding life in general but also the complex expressions of it that we observe on our planet. Finally, we suggest a possible general principle that underlies those evolutionary transitions, which allow for the open-ended redefinition of autonomous systems: namely, the relative dynamic decoupling that must be articulated among distinct parts, modules or modes of operation in these systems. (shrink)
The organizational account of biological functions interprets functions as contributions of a trait to the maintenance of the organization that, in turn, maintains the trait. As has been recently argued, however, the account seems unable to provide a unified grounding for both intra- and cross-generation functions, since the latter do not contribute to the maintenance of the same organization which produces them. To face this ‘ontological problem’, a splitting account has been proposed, according to which the two kinds of functions (...) require distinct organizational definitions. In this article, we propose a solution for the ontological problem, by arguing that intra- and cross-generation functions can be said to contribute in the same way to the maintenance of the biological organization, characterized in terms of organizational self-maintenance. As a consequence, we suggest maintaining a unified organizational account of biological functions. (shrink)
Since Darwin it is widely accepted that natural selection (NS) is the most important mechanism to explain how biological organisms—in their amazing variety—evolve and, therefore, also how the complexity of certain natural systems can increase over time, creating ever new functions or functional structures/relationships. Nevertheless, the way in which NS is conceived within Darwinian Theory already requires an open, wide enough, functional domain where selective forces may act. And, as the present paper will try to show, this becomes even more (...) evident if one looks into the problem of origins. If there was a time when NS was not operating (as it is quite reasonable to assume), where did that initial functional diversity, necessary to trigger off the process, come from? Self-organization processes may be part of the answer, as many authors have claimed in recent years, but surely not the complete one. We will argue here that a special type of self-maintaining organization, arising from the interplay among a set of different endogenously produced constraints (pre-enzymatic catalysts and primitive compartments included), is required for the appearance of functional diversity in the first place. Starting from that point, NS can progressively lead to new (and, at times, also more complex) organizations that, in turn, provide wider functional variety to be selected for, enlarging in this way the range of action and consequences of the mechanism of NS, in a kind of mutually enhancing effect. (shrink)
In this article we seek to show that the evolution of the concept of internal relation or internal property expresses a requirement, at the same time ethical and theoretical, which will lead Wittgenstein to the acceptance of pragmatic elements in the once formal field of the transcendental.
In this paper, we develop an organizational account that defines biological functions as causal relations subject to closure in living systems, interpreted as the most typical example of organizationally closed and differentiated self-maintaining systems. We argue that this account adequately grounds the teleological and normative dimensions of functions in the current organization of a system, insofar as it provides an explanation for the existence of the function bearer and, at the same time, identifies in a non-arbitrary way the norms that (...) functions are supposed to obey. Accordingly, we suggest that the organizational account combines the etiological and dispositional perspectives in an integrated theoretical framework. IntroductionDispositional ApproachesEtiological TheoriesBiological Self-maintenance Closure, teleology, and normativityOrganizational differentiationFunctions C1: Contributing to the maintenance of the organization C2: Producing the functional trait Implications and Objections Functional versus useful Dysfunctions, side effects, and accidental contributionsProper functions and selected effectsReproductionRelation with other ‘unitarian’ approachesConclusions. (shrink)
In our talk we will explore the theoretical role of constraints in the debate about emergence in biological systems. We will first advocate the view according to which a sound account of biological organisation implies the appeal to emergent levels of causation, and we will propose a theoretical justification against existing philosophical criticisms by interpreting emergent causal powers in terms of constraints. In particular, it will be our contention that the concept of constraint, interpreted as the causal power stemming from (...) the relational properties of material configurations, offers a solid ground for the theoretical defence of emergence. Our main thesis will then be that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems in the causal role of constitutive constraints. The first relevant transition from Physics to Biology occurs when a constraint is able to exert a causal action on some dynamics in such a way that, in turn, the constrained dynamics maintain (at least some of) the boundary conditions enabling the constraint to exist. When this occurs, the whole system is then, even if in a minimal sense, self-maintaining. Self-maintenance is a widespread phenomenon in nature, its most common example being the so-called 'self-organizing' or 'dissipative' structures. The peculiar characteristic of these phenomena is that, in different degrees, they produce the same constraints which act upon their generative dynamics (or dynamical configurations). In biological systems, self-maintenance assumes the more complex form of a mutual dependence between a set of constraints such that for each constraint Ci, (at least some of) the boundary conditions required for its maintenance are determined by the immediate action of another constraint Cj, whose maintenance depend in turn on Ci as an immediate constraint. We label this emerging causal regime organizational closure. The concept of organisational closure has two important theoretical implications for the debate on emergence and reduction. The first derives from the acknowledgment that those components which are relevant in order to describe the dynamics of biological systems, and which can be considered as constrained structures, exist only as far as they are involved in the organization. As a consequence, organizational closure entails a limitation in the possible operations of fractioning of the system and, therefore, in the attempt to provide reductionist descriptions of it. The second implication concerns the problem of downward causation. As we will argue, configurations of mutually dependent constraints do not involve inter-level causation, which would then constitute a heuristic, rather than theoretical, tool for biological explanation. (shrink)
In this paper we review and argue for the relevance of the concept of open-ended evolution in biological theory. Defining it as a process in which a set of chemical systems bring about an unlimited variety of equivalent systems that are not subject to any pre-determined upper bound of organizational complexity, we explain why only a special type of self-constructing, autonomous systems can actually implement it. We further argue that this capacity derives from the ‘dynamic decoupling’ (in its minimal or (...) most basic sense: the phenotype–genotype decoupling) by means of which a radically new way of material organization (minimal living organization) is achieved, allowing for the long-term sustenance of systems whose individual-metabolic and collective-historical pathways become thereafter deeply intertwined. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to examine how the notion of biological autonomy may be linked to other notions of autonomy usual in philosophical discussions. Starting in the 70s, the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela developed a theory of life as autopoiesis which gives rise to a new conception of autonomy: biological autonomy. The development of this concept implies the recovery of the notion of the organism in a scientific context in which biology and philosophy of biology (...) are focused on the study of the gene by Molecular Biology and evolution by natural selection, by the so called Modern Synthesis. Here we try to show some implications of the concept of life as autonomy for current biology and how this concept can be related to other more usual ones in philosophy. (shrink)
Y lo que es más decisivo, con El Cine y la Metáfora aprendemos a ver las películas de una manera más compleja, porque nos enseña a desmenuzar inteligentemente algunos de los elementos y objetos cotidianos que constituyen el alfabeto de ...
The beliefs of the agents in a multi-agent system have been formally modelled in the last decades using doxastic logics. The possible worlds model and its associated Kripke semantics provide an intuitive semantics for these logics, but they commit us to model agents that are logically omniscient. We propose a way of avoiding this problem, using a new kind of entities called subjective situations. We define a new doxastic logic based on these entities and we show how the belief operators (...) have some desirable properties, while avoiding logical omniscience. A comparison with two well-known proposals (Levesque''s logic of explicit and implicit beliefs and Thijsse''s hybrid sieve systems) is also provided. (shrink)
Este artigo aplica o estilo da terapêutica wittgensteiniana ao argumento do sonho sua versão cartesiana. Além disso. ele sugere algumas linhas de comparação entre o projeto husserliano de constituição e a terapêutica wittgensteiniana.
This work includes contributions by grice, pears, strawson, hampshire, williams, buchdahl, gardiner, murdoch, and warnock. the general consensus of opinion seems to be that metaphysics is characterized by being conceptual revision. these philosophers also agree that there is no real future for such metaphysical enquiries. (staff).