Journal Article

Biological Organization and Cross-Generation Functions

Cristian Saborido, Matteo Mossio and Alvaro Moreno

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 62, issue 3, pages 583-606
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axq034
Biological Organization and Cross-Generation Functions

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The organizational account of biological functions interprets functions as contributions of a trait to the maintenance of the organization that, in turn, maintains the trait. As has been recently argued, however, the account seems unable to provide a unified grounding for both intra- and cross-generation functions, since the latter do not contribute to the maintenance of the same organization which produces them. To face this ‘ontological problem’, a splitting account has been proposed, according to which the two kinds of functions require distinct organizational definitions. In this article, we propose a solution for the ontological problem, by arguing that intra- and cross-generation functions can be said to contribute in the same way to the maintenance of the biological organization, characterized in terms of organizational self-maintenance. As a consequence, we suggest maintaining a unified organizational account of biological functions.

1Introduction

2Self-reproduction of Traits: Proposals and Criticism

  2.1Schlosser’s and McLaughlin’s accounts

  2.2Delancey’s ‘splitting account’

3Self-maintenance of Systems

  3.1Functions and organizational closure

  3.2Second order self-maintaining systems?

  3.3A solution to the ontological problem

4Conclusions

Journal Article.  9714 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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