The organism as reality or as fiction: Buffon and beyond

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (1):3 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

In this paper, we reflect on the connection between the notions of organism and organisation, with a specific interest in how this bears upon the issue of the reality of the organism. We do this by presenting the case of Buffon, who developed complex views about the relation between the notions of “organised” and “organic” matter. We argue that, contrary to what some interpreters have suggested, these notions are not orthogonal in his thought. Also, we argue that Buffon has a view in which organisation is not just ubiquitous, but basic and fundamental in nature, and hence also fully natural. We suggest that he can hold this view because of his anti-mathematicism. Buffon’s case is interesting, in our view, because he can regard organisation, and organisms, as perfectly natural, and can admit their reality without invoking problematic supernaturalist views, and because he allows organisation and the organismal to come in kinds and degrees. Thus, his view tries to do justice to two cautionary notes for the debate on the reality of the organism: the need for a commitment to a broadly naturalist perspective, and the need to acknowledge the interesting features of organisms through which we make sense of them.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,069

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2017-12-05

Downloads
28 (#588,700)

6 months
11 (#271,859)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Boris Demarest
University of Amsterdam
Charles T. Wolfe
Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès

Citations of this work

Organisms as Persisters.Subrena E. Smith - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (14).
The Artificial Cell, the Semipermeable Membrane, and the Life that Never Was, 1864–1901.Daniel Liu - 2019 - Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 49 (5):504-555.
In defense of teleological intuitions.Gergely Kertész & Daniel Kodaj - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (4):1421-1437.
A non-metaphysical evaluation of vitalism in the early twentieth century.Bohang Chen - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (3):50.

Add more citations