Philosophy Compass 9 (5):347-359 (2014)

Daniel J. Nicholson
George Mason University
Although it may seem like a truism to assert that biology is the science that studies organisms, during the second half of the twentieth century the organism category disappeared from biological theory. Over the past decade, however, biology has begun to witness the return of the organism as a fundamental explanatory concept. There are three major causes: (a) the realization that the Modern Synthesis does not provide a fully satisfactory understanding of evolution; (b) the growing awareness of the limits of reductionism in molecular biology; and (c) the renewed interest in the nature of life as a genuine scientific problem. This essay examines these recent developments and considers the new epistemological roles being played by the organism in each of them. It also reflects on what the present resurgence of the organism means for the philosophy of biology
Keywords extended evolutionary synthesis  molecular biology  systems biology  theoretical biology  biological autonomy  organicism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/phc3.12128
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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

Critique of the Power of Judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
A Matter of Individuality.David L. Hull - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (3):335-360.

View all 62 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (1).

View all 20 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Organism as Ontological Go-Between. Hybridity, Boundaries and Degrees of Reality in its Conceptual History.Charles T. Wolfe - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 1:
Do Organisms Have an Ontological Status?Charles T. Wolfe - 2010 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 32 (2-3):195-232.
Evolutionary Essentialism.Denis Walsh - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):425-448.
The Organism in Development.Robert C. Richardson - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (3):321.
La idea de autonomía en biología.Arantza Etxeberria & Álvaro Moreno - 2007 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 40:21-37.
Die aristotelische Substanz als Wendepunkt in der Ontologie der Antike.Gianluigi Segalerba - 2010 - Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte (Sonderheft 8):161-172.
What Is Life?Gary S. Rosenkrantz - 2001 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 2001:125-134.


Added to PP index

Total views
392 ( #25,559 of 2,507,351 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
79 ( #9,965 of 2,507,351 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes