Talk by Nathalie Gontier: Roots of reticulate evolutionary theories in natural philosophy

Date and time: May 15, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Nathalie Gontier (Center for Philosophy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon)

Title: Roots of reticulate evolutionary theories in natural philosophy


Symbiosis, symbiogenesis, hybridization, virolution and infectious heredity are forms of reticulate evolution that are currently drawing the attention of philosophers of science because of the discussions they raise on the origin of life and the diversification of major cell types, the nature of biological individuality, and the limited scope of the traditional Modern Synthesis in defining and explaining all aspects of life’s evolution. Research on the innovative nature of reticulate evolution currently overshadows inquiries into the scientific and sociocultural context wherein these ideas first emerged. Hybridization theories were first formulated in relation to the ethnic mixing induced by colonialism and imperialism, with religious, political and scientific leaders speaking out against the mixing of ethnicities – an idea also endorsed by the eugenicist founders of the Modern Synthesis. Symbiosis and symbiogenesis associate with the rise of communitarian and socialist ideologies that opposed liberal ideas of free market economy that in turn associate with natural selection theory. And research on virolution and infectious heredity associates with attempts at eradicating disease. All aspects of reticulate evolution thus originally carried a negative sociocultural connotation. To understand why reticulate evolution has long been researched outside the mainstream Neodarwinian framework, it is necessary to go beyond comparing these theoretical frameworks from within science and the role they play in evolution, and to take the sociocultural, political and historical aspects into account.

Talk by Nathalie Gontier: Explanation in evolutionary linguistic sciences: a review of epistemological frameworks

Date and time: May 14, Monday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Nathalie Gontier (Center for Philosophy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon)

Title: Explanation in evolutionary linguistic sciences: a review of epistemological frameworks


Rather than present a theory on the origin and evolution of language, I focus on the various epistemological frameworks that have been introduced to understand and study the origin and evolution of language. Evolutionary linguistics is a relatively young field of research that originated a mere 30 years ago as an outgrowth, on the one hand of the rise of computational linguistics (itself an outgrowth of cybernetics and information theory), and on the other evolutionary psychology. Pinker & Bloom’s 1990 article published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences is often considered a first seminal paper, and the introduction of the EVOLANG conference series a direct response. Nonetheless, research on the origin and evolution of language is very old and has roots in, on the one hand, moral social contract theory, and on the other, the rise of natural history research. Such research originally included both synchronic and diachronic research into the origin of language, but synchronic research became favored, first, because of the publication ban on diachronic research by the French linguistic society in 1866; later due to the favoring of synchronic, systems theoretical approaches by early linguists and anthropologists, and finally due to the rise of biolinguistics. Nonetheless, research on the biological origins of language associates, on the one hand, with the rise of behaviorism, ethology, evolutionary epistemology and comparative psychology; on the other, with the continuation of diachronic sociocultural research and the continuous development of taxonomic and phylogenetic tools to classify the world different languages and their diaspora. And though evolutionary linguistics is a field that originated partly by opposing itself to Chomskyan and biolinguistic programs, the role of neuro- and biolinguists in reviving evolutionary research is not to be underestimated. Today, the study of language evolution is becoming devided into research on the origins of communication in primates, the origin and evolution of protolanguage, and the study of macroevolutionary language dynamics. While originally working from within a universal selectionist approach, the biggest challenge for the field today is incorporating findings associated with the extended evolutionary synthesis.

IAS-Research Talk by Gustavo Caponi: “El impacto de la Filosofía Anatómica de Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire en el desarrollo de la Historia Natural”

Date and time: February 9, Friday, 12:00 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Gustavo Caponi (Departamento de Filosofía – UFSC)

Title: El impacto de la Filosofía Anatómica de Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire en el desarrollo de la Historia Natural

Abstract: Se procurará mostrar de qué manera los trabajos y las tesis de Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire [Étampes, 1772 – Paris, 1844] impactaron en el devenir la Historia Natural anterior al advenimiento del darwinismo, creando las condiciones que propiciaron la Revolución Darwiniana. Para ello se examinarán las implicaciones de su Filosofía Anatómica en el desarrollo de la Anatomía Comparada y de la Paleontología. Ese examen estará focalizado en la teoría de los análogos y en el principio de las conexiones; dándose un énfasis especial a las diferencias entre los puntos de vista de Geoffroy y los de su colega, y rival, Georges Cuvier.

“Seminario Abierto de Filosofía” by Sandra Caponi: “Vigilar y medicar: el DSM-5 y los trastornos mentales de la infancia”

Date and time: February 8, Thursday, 13:00.

Location: .”Sala de Juntas” (Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología)

Speaker: Sandra Caponi (Departamento de Sociología & Ciencia Política – UFSC)

Title: Vigilar y medicar: el DSM-5 y los trastornos mentales de la infancia


IAS-Research Talk by Johannes Jaeger: “Structuralist perspectives on the evolution of developmental processes”

Date and time: March 1, Thursday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Johannes Jaeger. Associate Faculty, Complexity Science Hub (CSH) Vienna. Visiting Scientist, Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD)

Title: Structuralist perspectives on the evolution of developmental processes

Abstract: The organisational approach to living systems draws on the organicist movement from the 1920s and 30s. In this lecture, I will present a different line of historical influence of this research tradition. It traces through the work of Waddington and Schmalhausen to the process structuralists of the 1970s and 80s. These biologists were less concerned with the overall organisation of autonomous self-maintaining organisms. Instead, their research focus lies on the structures underlying the dynamics of evolving developmental proc.esses. These structures are expressed in terms of morphogenetic fields and their mathematical description by systems of differential equations. They not only determine the pattern-forming repertoire of a developmental process, but also its evolutionary potential, as they determine the possible phenotypic transitions such processes can or cannot produce. In this way, they directly connect to modern concepts of evolvability and the genotype-phenotype map used in current evolutionary developmental biology. I intend to illustrate this neglected history of process structuralism with numerous examples.

IAS-Research Talk by Cristina Moreno Lozano: “In between antibiotic reasons and rations. Introductory ideas to the study of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance from social science”

Date and time: January 17, Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Cristina Moreno Lozano

Title: In between antibiotic reasons and rations. Introductory ideas to the study of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance from social science


Today, health experts confirm that the development of antibiotic resistance and the decline in availability of efficacious antibiotic products is becoming a problem of extreme urgency for global health. Clinical guidelines, policy statements, scientific papers and health awareness materials have proliferated in the last few years. It is time to act, we are told, as the worst is yet to come. It seems that in a short period of time, we have passed from a spirit of optimism over the magic bullet, capable of offering the world a cure without precedents, to establish ourselves as a generation whose future healthcare could stagger if we do not act rapidly.

In the interstices between my learning of medical anthropology and biomedical science, I approach the question: how do we think the phenomenon of antibiosis[1]? The concept of “rational use” of antibiotics is used by most international health policy, implying a differentiation between rational/irrational individuals. Here, the ‘rational’ use of antibiotics is dissected: it is both about how we manage the antibiotic resources we have and how we think about them. It is about rations and reasons, about science and belief, science and culture, and everything in between. In these policy proposals, ideas of rationing, biosocial efficacy, responsibility and toxicity appear clearly, and are still to explore by qualitative research methods in the future.

This presentation hopes to leave some questions open for reflection: can social science and the humanities better understand antibiotic use from a viewpoint different from the dichotomy of rational/irrational? Can the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), significantly related to antibiotic use, help us do more than seek and describe rational/ irrational behaviours? AMR is made and remade as a scientific concept and an issue for global public health as we speak. It circulates through different spaces in society, arguably reshaping human-microbe relationships, the experience of infectious disease and its cure as it goes. Can we follow the genetic and chemical traces of antibiotics and AMR in order to better embrace the complexity of the issue?


[1] The concept of ‘Antibiosis’ is used to define a biological interaction between two or more microorganisms that is detrimental to at least one of them. The application of antibiotic substances by some microorganisms against others is only one example of this biological phenomenon.

IAS-Research Talk by Mihaela Pavlicev: “Can knowledge help overcome the biases in societal perception of female biology?”

Date and time: December 5, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Mihaela PavlicevUniversity of Cincinnati, Department of Pediatrics


Societal perception, and even the perception of textbook biology and medicine, often reduces female biology to its reproductive function. This has many consequences for the attitude towards female traits, including the attitude of the women themselves, and particularly towards the female traits that have no direct function in reproduction. It is also reflected in medical vocabulary and treatment.  Intriguingly, much of this perception is not based on scientific facts, but likely originates from the way the research questions have been asked in the past, and how the results have been interpreted. I will present some of the recent research on the origin of female orgasm, as well as the physiological basis of the menstruation- examples of female traits often considered “obsolete”. I hope to elicit a discussion on how we can use research insights to re-interpret the female traits in a more accurate, and less damaging, way.

IAS-Research Talk by Javier Suárez: “Stability of Traits as the Kind of Stability That Matters in a Holobiont”

Date and time: November 7, Tuesday, 12:15 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Javier Suárez ( is PhD student in philosophy at the University of Barcelona and the University of Exeter.

Abstract: Holobionts are biological entities that consist of a multicellular eukaryotic host plus its symbiotic microbiota. Holobionts are supposed to be pervasive and they are supposed to bear emergent traits, resulting from the dynamic interactions between the host and its symbionts. Defenders of the holobiont have recently developed the “hologenome concept of evolution”, according to which holobionts are units of selection in evolution. This claim has been recently contested by many, who claim that holobionts cannot be units of selection because the entities that compose a holobiont are not faithfully transmitted intergenerationally and therefore their influence in the holobiont is not evolutionarily constant. In this paper, I contend their argument by distinguishing between the notions of stability of lineages and stability of traits. Stability of lineages requires the different species that integrate a holobiont to be transmitted every generation in order to have a unit of selection. Stability of traits, however, requires that the traits that are identified in every new generation of holobionts are the same, in order to have a unit of selection. I defend that the arguments that have been offered against the role of holobionts as units of selection assume the idea of stability of lineages and argue that the idea of stability of traits is more suitable for capturing the role of holobionts as units of selection.

IAS-Research Talk by Marc Canciani: “Revising the Superorganism: An Organizational Approach to the Superorganism Concept”

Date and Time: November 7, Tuesday, 11:00 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Marc Canciani

Abstract: The superorganism, in the context of eusociality, is typically either understood as a heuristic tool used to better understand group dynamics within colonies or as a form of biological individuality, based on an evolutionary notion of individual. We argue that the concept should be understood similarly to that of its original notion, as denoting higher-level individuals, rather than heuristically. However, the definition of an evolutionary individual (a unit of selection, or alignment of fitness of the parts) is too vague and therefore there are no clear conditions for ascertaining whether a colony is a superorganism or not. We develop a synchronic, organizational approach derived from the Autonomous Perspective, which defines organisms as autonomous individuals. As opposed to the Self-Organization notion (the current mainstream synchronic approach), we argue that the organizational complexity within eusocial colonies should the basis for defining the notion of superorganism. Even though there are processes that are the result of self-organization in superorganisms, we show that there are also forms of higher-level control and regulation between distinct sub-units within the system. Therefore superorganisms are more than just the result of self-organization. Moreover, superorganisms possibly represent a unique form of autonomy: a minimal form autonomy in a multi-agent system.

IAS-Research Talk by Marc Bedau: “The meta-question about life”

Date and Time: October 25, Wednesday, 15:30 p.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Mark Bedau (

Abstract: The question how to define life is very controversial, with many answers proposed but no signs of any emerging consensus. This raises a second question, the meta-question about life: Why is the definition of life so difficult and so controversial? Various answers to the meta-question have been proposed, such as being limited to a sample size for life of only one (Sterelny, Cleland), or confusion over homonyms that share a core meaning (Shields), or our failure to recognize impossible to answer question about folk concepts and pointless questions about scientific concepts (Machery), or our mistake of human kinds for natural kinds (Keller). Most contemporary discussions of defining life and resolving its controversies seem to presuppose a Cartesian perspective on the problem, focused on whether we can identify necessary and sufficient conditions for individual living organism. This contrasts with an Aristotelian perspective on the problem, focused on finding the best explanation of the characteristic phenomena involving life, such as life’s hallmarks, its borderline cases, and its characteristic puzzles. I argue replacing the Cartesian perspective with the Aristotelian perspective provides more promise for answering the meta-question about life, and thereby eventually resolving how to define life.