Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology

Oxford University Press (2018)

Authors
Daniel J. Nicholson
Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research
John Dupre
University of Exeter
Abstract
This collection of essays explores the metaphysical thesis that the living world is not made up of substantial particles or things, as has often been assumed, but is rather constituted by processes. The biological domain is organised as an interdependent hierarchy of processes, which are stabilised and actively maintained at different timescales. Even entities that intuitively appear to be paradigms of things, such as organisms, are actually better understood as processes. Unlike previous attempts to articulate processual views of biology, which have tended to use Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychist metaphysics as a foundation, this book takes a naturalistic approach to metaphysics. It submits that the main motivations for replacing an ontology of substances with one of processes are to be found in the empirical findings of science. Biology provides compelling reasons for thinking that the living realm is fundamentally dynamic, and that the existence of things is always conditional on the existence of processes. The phenomenon of life cries out for theories that prioritise processes over things, and it suggests that the central explanandum of biology is not change but rather stability, or more precisely, stability attained through constant change. This edited volume brings together philosophers of science and metaphysicians interested in exploring the consequences of a processual philosophy of biology. The contributors draw on an extremely wide range of biological case studies, and employ a process perspective to cast new light on a number of traditional philosophical problems, such as identity, persistence, and individuality.
Keywords process ontology  substance ontology  metaphysics of science  philosophy of biology  organism  identity  persistence  individuality  symbiosis  explanation
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