The cell: locus or object of inquiry?

Research in many fields of biology has been extremely successful in decomposing biological mechanisms to discover their parts and operations. It often remains a significant challenge for scientists to recompose these mechanisms to understand how they function as wholes and interact with the environments around them. This is true of the eukaryotic cell. Although initially identified in nineteenth-century cell theory as the fundamental unit of organisms, researchers soon learned how to decompose it into its organelles and chemical constituents and have been highly successful in understanding how these carry out many operations important to life. The emphasis on decomposition is particularly evident in modern cell biology, which for the most part has viewed the cell as merely a locus of the mechanisms responsible for vital phenomena. The cell, however, is also an integrated system and for some explanatory purposes it is essential to recompose it and understand it as an organized whole. I illustrate both the virtues of decomposition (treating the cell as a locus) and recomposition (treating the cell as an object) with recent work on circadian rhythms. Circadian researchers have both identified critical intracellular operations that maintain endogenous oscillations and have also addressed the integration of cells into multicellular systems in which cells constitute units. Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.07.006
 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: 24,392
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

View all 6 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Maureen A. O'Malley (2010). The First Eukaryote Cell: An Unfinished History of Contestation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):212-224.
Andrew Reynolds (2010). The Redoubtable Cell. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):194-201.
Gerhard Müller-Strahl (2014). Matter, Metaphors, and Mechanisms: Rethinking Cell Theories. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:130-150.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Daniel J. Nicholson (2010). Biological Atomism and Cell Theory. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):202-211.
William Bechtel (2013). From Molecules to Behavior and the Clinic: Integration in Chronobiology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 44 (4):493-502.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

248 ( #12,273 of 1,924,699 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

19 ( #31,322 of 1,924,699 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

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