Philosophy of Biology

Edited by Manolo Martínez (Universitat de Barcelona)
Assistant editor: Wiseley Wong (University of Western Ontario)
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  1. Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology.Kim Sterelny & Paul Edmund Griffiths - 1999 - Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
    Is the history of life a series of accidents or a drama scripted by selfish genes? Is there an “essential” human nature, determined at birth or in a distant evolutionary past? What should we conserve—species, ecosystems, or something else? -/- Informed answers to questions like these, critical to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, require both a knowledge of biology and a philosophical framework within which to make sense of its findings. In this accessible introduction to philosophy (...)
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    Developmental Biology
     Developmental Constraints
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     Developmental Systems Theory
     Ecological Developmental Biology
     Epigenetic Inheritance
     Evolutionary Developmental Biology
     Genetic Program
     Innateness
     Nature and Nurture
     Process Structuralism
     Developmental Biology, Misc
    Ecology and Conservation Biology
     Conservation Ethics
     Biodiversity
     Deep Ecology
     Ecological Developmental Biology
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     Ecosystems
     Human Ecology
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    Environmental Philosophy
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     Environmental Ethics, Misc
     Topics in Environmental Ethics
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     Phil of Food and Drink
    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
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     Teleology and Function, Misc
     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
     Teleological Accounts of Mental Content
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    Interlevel Relations in Biology
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  2. Development and Heredity in the Interwar Period: Hans Spemann and Fritz Baltzer on Organizers and Merogones.Christina Brandt - forthcoming - Journal of the History of Biology:1-31.
    This article explores the collaborative research of the Nobel laureate Hans Spemann and the Swiss zoologist Fritz Baltzer on problems at the intersection of development and heredity and raises more general questions concerning science and politics in Germany in the interwar period. It argues that Spemann and Baltzer’s collaborative work made a significant contribution to the then ongoing debates about the relation between developmental physiology and hereditary studies, although Spemann distanced himself from Drosophila genetics because of his anti-reductionist position. The (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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     Epigenetic Inheritance
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     Genetic Program
     Innateness
     Nature and Nurture
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    Ecology and Conservation Biology
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    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
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  3. Cognitive Functions Are Not Reducible to Biological Ones: The Case of Minimal Visual Perception.Argyris Arnellos & Alvaro Moreno - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-25.
    We argue that cognitive functions are not reducible to biological functionality. Since only neural animals can develop complex forms of agency, we assume that genuinely cognitive processes are deeply related with the activity of the nervous system. We first analyze the significance of the appearance of the nervous system in certain multicellular organisms, arguing that it has changed the logic of their biological organization. Then, we focus on the appearance of specifically cognitive capacities within the nervous system. Considering a case (...)
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    Developmental Biology
     Developmental Constraints
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     Epigenetic Inheritance
     Evolutionary Developmental Biology
     Genetic Program
     Innateness
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     Developmental Biology, Misc
    Ecology and Conservation Biology
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     Deep Ecology
     Ecological Developmental Biology
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     Ecosystems
     Human Ecology
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     Non-Human Animals
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    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
     Functions
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     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
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  4. Correction To: Beauty: Synthesis of Intellect and Senses Commentary on the Biosemiotic Fundamentals of Aesthetics.Tim Ireland - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-1.
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    Developmental Biology
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    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
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     Consequentialism and Teleology
     Teleological Accounts of Mental Content
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  5. A Pluralistic Framework for the Psychology of Norms.Evan Westra & Kristin Andrews - forthcoming - Biology and Philosophy.
    Social norms are commonly understood as rules that dictate which behaviors are appropriate, permissible, or obligatory in different situations for members of a given community. Many researchers have sought to explain the ubiquity of social norms in human life in terms of the psychological mechanisms underlying their acquisition, conformity, and enforcement. Existing theories of the psychology of social norms appeal to a variety of constructs, from prediction-error minimization, to reinforcement learning, to shared intentionality, to domain-specific adaptations for norm acquisition. In (...)
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    Developmental Biology
     Developmental Constraints
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     Evolutionary Developmental Biology
     Genetic Program
     Innateness
     Nature and Nurture
     Process Structuralism
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    Ecology and Conservation Biology
     Conservation Ethics
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     Deep Ecology
     Ecological Developmental Biology
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     Evolution of Phenomena
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     Environmental Ethics, Misc
     Topics in Environmental Ethics
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     Non-Human Animals
     Phil of Food and Drink
    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
     Functions
     Teleology and Function, Misc
     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
     Teleological Accounts of Mental Content
     Vitalism
     Functional Explanation
    Interlevel Relations in Biology
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  6. Living and Dwelling: A Biosemiotic and Anthropological View on Inhabiting, Art and Design.Katarzyna Machtyl - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-19.
    This paper juxtaposes biosemiotic and anthropological perspectives to consider the issue of dwelling and living, with particular reference to nonhuman agency and design. The author discusses the fundamental issues and theoretical concepts associated with this issue before making comparisons with reference to a case study and defining a stance on the agency of animate and inanimate nature, with particular regard paid to dwelling. The Zoepolis project is an artistic one, on the borderline of the humanities, the natural sciences and art, (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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     Genetic Program
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    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
     Functions
     Teleology and Function, Misc
     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
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  7. A Hapless Mathematical Contribution to Biology: Chromosome Inversions in Drosophila, 1937–1941.Eric Tannier - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (3):1-22.
    This is the story, told in the light of a new analysis of historical data, of a mathematical biology problem that was explored in the 1930s in Thomas Morgan’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. It is one of the early developments of evolutionary genetics and quantitative phylogeny, and deals with the identification and counting of chromosomal inversions in Drosophila species from comparisons of genetic maps. A re-analysis of the data produced in the 1930s using current mathematics and computational (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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     Epigenetic Inheritance
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     Genetic Program
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    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
     Functions
     Teleology and Function, Misc
     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
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  8. Change in the Graphics of Journal Articles in the Life Sciences Field: Analysis of Figures and Tables in the Journal “Cell”.Kana Ariga & Manabu Tashiro - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (3):1-34.
    The purpose of this study is to examine how trends in the use of images in modern life science journals have changed since the spread of computer-based visual and imaging technology. To this end, a new classification system was constructed to analyze how the graphics of a scientific journal have changed over the years. The focus was on one international peer-reviewed journal in life sciences, Cell, which was founded in 1974, whereby 1725 figures and 160 tables from the research articles (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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     Epigenetic Inheritance
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     Genetic Program
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    Ecology and Conservation Biology
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     Prioritization
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     Topics in Environmental Ethics
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     Phil of Food and Drink
    Teleology and Function
     Teleology
     Functions
     Teleology and Function, Misc
     Functionalism
     Consequentialism and Teleology
     Teleological Accounts of Mental Content
     Vitalism
     Functional Explanation
    Interlevel Relations in Biology
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  9. Organisms as Persisters.Subrena E. Smith - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9.
    Some things are living and some are not. Under the heading “living things” come entities at various levels of biological organization. Some are called “organisms.” However, the term “organism” does not pick out organismal entities uniformly—that is, among all the things that are considered to be whole living systems, some are regarded as indisputably organisms, and others are accorded only qualified organismic status. Perhaps this is because it is not clear why some biological systems should count as organisms and others (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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  10. .Tamar Schneider - 2021 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 13.
    Over the last three decades, studies in microbiology have exposed a world of diverse and dynamic interactions. Through metagenomic sequencing, complex bacterial communities became visible and proved important for many biological phenomena. As a result of discovering the connection between microorganisms and organisms’ survival, the notion of the holobiont has become prominent and has been suggested as a biological individual. The view of the holobiont as an individual, commonly known as the Hologenome Theory, focuses on the interactions and relations between (...)
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    Developmental Biology
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  11. The built environment in Social Media: towards a Biosemiotic Approach.Federico Bellentani & Daria Arkhipova - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-21.
    The paper presents a biosemiotic approach to the study of the built environment, its representations and practices in social media. First, it outlines the main developments that make semiotics hold a significant position in the study of urban space and the built environment. It then goes on to overcome the limitations of the binary opposition paradigm: in particular, nature/culture is reconsidered as a category in which the two terms are in a relation of mutual participation rather than being exclusive to (...)
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  12. Health as Temporally Extended: Theoretical Foundations and Implications.Ari Schick - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (3):1-22.
    This paper seeks to develop a theory of health that aligns with the shift in contemporary medical practice and research toward a temporally extended epidemiological view of health. The paper describes how such a theory is at the core of life course based approaches to health, and finds theoretical grounding in recent work in the philosophy of biology promulgating a process theory of life.
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  13. Towards a Bioinformational Understanding of AI.Rahul D. Gautam & Balaganapathi Devarakonda - 2022 - AI and Society 37:1-23.
    The article seeks to highlight the relation between ontology and communication while considering the role of AI in society and environment. Bioinformationalism is the technical term that foregrounds this relationality. The study reveals instructive consequences for philosophy of technology in general and AI in particular. The first section introduces the bioinformational approach to AI, focusing on three critical features of the current AI debate: ontology of information, property-based vs. relational AI, and ontology vs. constitution of AI. When applied to the (...)
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  14. Molecular Characteristics of the Multi‐Functional FAO Enzyme ACAD9 Illustrate the Importance of FADH 2 /NADH Ratios for Mitochondrial ROS Formation. [REVIEW]Dave Speijer - 2022 - Bioessays 44 (8):2200056.
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  15. An Enactive-Developmental Systems Framing of Cognizing Systems.Amanda Corris - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-21.
    Organisms live not as discrete entities on which an independent environment acts, but as members of a reproductive lineage in an ongoing series of interactions between that lineage and a dynamic ecological niche. These interactions continuously shape both systems in a reciprocal manner, resulting in the emergence of reliably co-occurring configurations within and between both systems. The enactive approach to cognition describes this relationship as the structural coupling between an organism and its environment; similarly, Developmental Systems Theory emphasizes the reciprocal (...)
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  16. The 'Singularity'.Ilexa Yardley - 2022 - Https://Medium.Com/the-Circular-Theory.
    The 'singularity' in Nature is a concrete-abstraction (think: tokenization) of the circular-linear relationship between 'me' and 'you.' Also, known as, 'me' and 'me' ('you' and 'you'). (Any and every 'me.') (Any and every 'you'.) Explaining the ontology, and, thus, the epistemology, of technology and finance (physics and psychology) (biology and philosophy). The abstract 'object.' The notion of 'self.' Any NFT (non-fungible and-or fungible token). The 'genetics of information.'.
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  17. Introduction.Tim Ireland & Paul Cobley - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-6.
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  18. Ontography and Maieutics, or Speculative Notes on an Ethos for Umwelt Theory.Silver Rattasepp - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-16.
    There is renewed interest in questions of ontology in various fields, as there has been in biosemiotics. But for umwelt theory, ontology needs to be approached in particular ways, in order to avoid it from being yet another “philosophy of access”, part and parcel of the epistemology-ontology dyad, where “ontology” is the leftover of epistemology, or any sort of subjective constitution of things. The article engages in philosophical considerations about what kinds of assumptions and preliminary considerations should be made for (...)
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  19. Supplementary notes on Kalevi Kull, ‘The Biosemiotic Fundamentals of Aesthetics: Beauty is Perfect Semiotic Fitting’.Robert E. Innis - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-5.
    I offer some supplementary reflections on the range and scope of some central concepts in Kalevi Kull’s ‘The Biosemiotic Fundamentals of Aesthetics: Beauty is Perfect Semiotic Fitting.’ Focus is directed, motivated by John Dewey, to some further aspects of Peirce’s linking of aesthetics to the nature of quality and of feeling. The complex dimensionality of semiotic fitting is taken up with an eye on Peirce’s theory of interpretants. Some suggestions are made about the use of beauty instead of form or (...)
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  20. Ronnie de Sousa, French Philosopher?Arina Pismenny - 2022 - A Tribute to Ronald de Sousa.
    Although trained in the Anglophone analytic tradition, the French education of his formative years seems to have left its mark on Ronnie de Sousa’s thinking and writing. He appeals to temperament as an explanation for fundamental attitudes to life: neither the quest for a source of meaning in God or nature, nor his own tendency to relish life’s meaninglessness can be grounded in reason. To show this, Ronnie has argued that there is no such thing as human nature, and that (...)
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  21. Not functional yet a difference maker: junk DNA as a case study.Joyce C. Havstad & Alexander F. Palazzo - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-27.
    It is often thought that non-junk or coding DNA is more significant than other cellular elements, including so-called junk DNA. This is for two main reasons: because coding DNA is often targeted by historical or current selection, it is considered functionally special and because its mode of action is uniquely specific amongst the other actual difference makers in the cell, it is considered causally special. Here, we challenge both these presumptions. With respect to function, we argue that there is previously (...)
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  22. JHB’s Darwin Collection.Marsha Richmond & Karen Rader - forthcoming - Journal of the History of Biology:1-2.
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  23. De-sign Agency as the envoy of intentionality: trajectories toward Cultural Sensitivity and Environmental Sensibility.Farouk Y. Seif - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-23.
    This article explores how De-sign can be utilized as a navigational trajectory toward the integration of cultural sensitivity and environmental sensibility. It affirms that intentionality makes it possible for human beings to make meaning of their world. Navigating through trajectories for the purpose of seeking desired outcomes is a reiterative de-sign process that is constantly adjusting pragmatically. Because de-sign outcomes are only invariant aspects of the unfolding process of synechism and palingenesia, every de-sign situation is a unique journey toward infinite (...)
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  24. Causal-role myopia and the functional investigation of junk DNA.Stefan Linquist - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-23.
    The distinction between causal role and selected effect functions is typically framed in terms of their respective explanatory roles. However, much of the controversy over functions in genomics takes place in an investigative, not an explanatory context. Specifically, the process of component-driven functional investigation begins with the designation of some genetic or epigenetic element as functional —i.e. not junk— because it possesses properties that, arguably, suggest some biologically interesting organismal effect. The investigative process then proceeds, in a bottom-up fashion, to (...)
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  25. Reputation for Competence: Social Learning Mechanisms Create an Incentive to Help Others.Douglas Schauer - 2022 - Biological Theory 17 (2):153-162.
    Research on social learning has identified mechanisms that learners use to decide from whom to learn. Several of these mechanisms indicate that learners prefer to learn from more competent people over less competent people. This requires learners to measure the competence of other people. We use this article to analyze the incentives that this measure of competence creates. Learners measure the competence of models, people they would consider learning from, and share these judgments with other learners. This gives each model (...)
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  26. Introducing “Critical Concepts in Biological Theory”.Stuart A. Newman - 2022 - Biological Theory 17 (2):113-113.
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  27. The Darwin Correspondence Project and Pedagogy.Bernard Lightman - forthcoming - Journal of the History of Biology:1-7.
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  28. Hutchinson’s ecological niche for individuals.Elina Takola & Holger Schielzeth - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-21.
    We here develop a concept of an individualized niche in analogy to Hutchison’s population-level concept of the ecological niche. We consider the individualized niche as the range of environmental conditions under which a particular individual has an expected lifetime reproductive success of ≥ 1. Our concept has primarily an ecological function, as it refers to the match of an individual phenotype to its contemporary environment while we discuss evolutionary fitness as an evaluative parameter of this fit. We address four specific (...)
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  29. Biological Individuality and the Foetus Problem.William Morgan - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    The Problem of Biological Individuality is the problem of how to count organisms. Whilst counting organisms may seem easy, the biological world is full of difficult cases such as colonial siphonophores and aspen tree groves. One of the main solutions to the Problem of Biological Individuality is the Physiological Approach. Drawing on an argument made by Eric Olson in the personal identity debate, I argue that the Physiological Approach faces a metaphysical problem - the ‘Foetus Problem’. This paper illustrates how (...)
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  30. Reliability is No Vice: Environmental Variance and Human Agency.Charles C. Roseman & Jonathan M. Kaplan - forthcoming - Biological Theory:1-17.
    The environmental elbow room model of free will posits the unshared proportion of environmental variance in twins is a measure of the degree to which free will may be exercised with respect to one’s life outcomes for a trait. This model attempts to unify the behavioral genetic study of socially important psychological characteristics such as intelligence and academic achievement with Dennett’s broadly compatibilist elbow room notion of free will. We demonstrate that the philosophy and genetics underlying the environmental elbow room (...)
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  31. Metabolism Instead of Machine: Towards an Ontology of Hybrids.Julia Rijssenbeek, Vincent Blok & Zoë Robaey - 2022 - Philosophy and Technology 35 (3):1-23.
    The emerging field of synthetic biology aims to engineer novel biological entities. The envisioned future bio-based economy builds largely on “cell factories”: organisms that have been metabolically engineered to sustainably produce substances for human ends. In this paper, we argue that synthetic biology’s goal of creating efficient production vessels for industrial applications implies a set of ontological assumptions according to which living organisms are machines. Traditionally, a machine is understood as a technological, isolated and controllable production unit consisting of parts. (...)
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  32. Epistemology of Measurement in Non-Human Animal Consciousness.Pater Ciprian - 2022 - Dissertation, Univeristy of Agder
    As I assume to begin with, animals with a high level of consciousness, are those beings which are more dependent on their materialistic ecological circumstances than those with less cognition. The most obvious support for this factual claim is the yet still unofficial unit of geological time named the Anthropocene Epoch demarcating human devastation of earthly resources, whereby there is no doubt which species on earth is the most materially dependent. Notwithstanding, we need to keep things quantitively in perspective. Of (...)
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  33. The Estimator Theory of Life and Mind: How Agency and Consciousness Can Emerge.J. H. Van Hateren - manuscript
    This book provides a comprehensive overview of my recent theoretical work that aims to explain some of the more puzzling properties of life and mind, in particular agency, goal-directedness and consciousness. It contains published papers as well as new material. Table of contents: Preface - PART I: GROUNDWORK - 1. Introduction - 2. The basic mechanism - 3. Inclusive and extensive fitness - 4. Components of F and X - 5. The consequences: a preview - PART II: LIFE - 6. (...)
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  34. Reflections on Darwin Historiography.Janet Browne - forthcoming - Journal of the History of Biology:1-13.
    Much has happened in the Darwin field since the Correspondence began publishing in 1985. This overview of historiography suggests that the richness of the letters generates fresh scholarly questions and that Darwin, paradoxically, is becoming progressively deconstructed as a key figure in the history of science.
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  35. Is the Origin of Life a Fluke? Why the Chance Hypothesis Should Not Be Dismissed Too Quickly.Christian Weidemann - 2017 - In What is Life? On Earth and Beyond. Cambridge, Vereinigtes Königreich: pp. 132-155.
    The origin of life on Earth is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. Although no complete account of life’s beginnings is available and although no life forms that emerged independently on other planets have been discovered, most origin-of-life-researchers and astrobiologists dismiss a chance scenario out of hand. I argue that this is a mistake for at least two reasons. First, given a sufficiently big and adequately variegated cosmos any finite chance of life emerging on Earth-like planets will virtually (...)
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  36. The Split-Body Problem.Gunnar Babcock - 2022 - Aeon.
    If you split yourself down the middle to become two people, would you survive the process? And, if you did, would your other half be your child, your clone or your sibling? Would this create two instances of the same you, existing simultaneously in two places at the same time; or would it create two entirely new people, causing you to suddenly cease to exist? While such thought experiments raise baffling questions about personal identity, there is a more fundamental problem (...)
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  37. Everybody Lies: Deception Levels in Various Domains of Life.Kristina Šekrst - 2022 - Biosemiotics.
    The goal of this paper is to establish a hierarchical level of deception which does not apply only to humans and non-human animals, but also to the rest of the living world, including plants. We will follow the hierarchical categorization of deception, set forth by Mitchell (1986), in which the first level of deception starts with mimicry, while the last level of deception includes learning and intentionality, usually attributed to primates. We will show how such a hierarchy can be attributed (...)
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  38. Do Transposable Elements Have Functions of Their Very Own?Justin Garson - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (3):1-18.
    Philosophers who study the problem of biological function often begin their deliberations by reflecting on the functions of parts of animals, or the behavior of animals. Applying theories of biological function to unconventional or borderline cases can help us to better evaluate and refine those theories. This is the case when we consider whether parts of transposable elements —bits of “selfish” DNA that move about within a host genome—have functions of their own, that is, whether the parts of TEs have (...)
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  39. Correction To: Neither Dogmas nor Barriers Are Absolute.Denis Noble - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-1.
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  40. Mathematical and Non-Causal Explanations: An Introduction.Daniel Kostić - 2019 - Perspectives on Science 1 (27):1-6.
    In the last couple of years, a few seemingly independent debates on scientific explanation have emerged, with several key questions that take different forms in different areas. For example, the questions what makes an explanation distinctly mathematical and are there any non-causal explanations in sciences (i.e., explanations that don’t cite causes in the explanans) sometimes take a form of the question of what makes mathematical models explanatory, especially whether highly idealized models in science can be explanatory and in virtue of (...)
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