Tuesday, 26/05/2020 at 11:30 (online, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paper available (open access) here:
The question addressed in this talk is how multicellular systems realise functionally integrated physiological entities by organising their intercellular space.
From a perspective centred on physiology and integration, biological systems are often characterised as organised in such a way that they realise metabolic self-production and self-maintenance. The existence and activity of their components rely on the network they realise and on the continuous management of the exchange of matter and energy with their environment. One of the virtues of the organismic approach focused on organisation is that it can provide an understanding of how biological systems are functionally integrated into coherent wholes.
Organismic frameworks have been primarily developed by focusing on unicellular life. Multicellularity, however, presents additional challenges to our understanding of biological systems, related to how cells are capable to live together in higher-order entities, in such a way that some of their features and behaviours are constrained and controlled by the system they realise. Whereas most accounts of multicellularity focus on cell differentiation and increase in size as the main elements to understand biological systems at this level of organisation, these factors are insufficient to provide an understanding of how cells are physically and functionally integrated in a coherent system.
To address these issues, I present a new theoretical framework of multicellularity. The thesis is that one of the fundamental theoretical principles to understand multicellularity, which is missing or underdeveloped in current accounts, is the functional organisation of the intercellular space. From this perspective, the capability to be organised in space plays a central role in this context, as it enables (and allows to exploit all the implications of) cell differentiation and increase in size, and even specialised functions such as immunity. The extracellular matrix plays a crucial active role in this respect, together with the strategies employed by multicellular systems to exert control upon internal movement and communication. Finally, I show how the organisation of space is involved in some of the failures of multicellular organisation, such as aging and cancer.
To participate online, please contact: email@example.com.
Date: 12/05/2020, at 11:30
Abstract: The concept of identity is used both (i) to distinguish a system as a particular material entity that is conserved as such in a given environment (token-identity: i.e., identity as permanence or endurance over time), and (ii) to relate a system with other members of a set (type-identity: i.e., identity as an equivalence relationship). Biological systems are characterized, in a minimal and universal sense, by a highly complex and dynamic, far-from-equilibrium organization of very diverse molecular components and transformation processes (i.e., ‘genetically-instructed cellular metabolisms’) that maintain themselves in constant interaction with their corresponding environments, including other systems of similar nature. More precisely, all living entities depend on a deeply convoluted organization of molecules and processes (a naturalized von Neumann constructor architecture) that subsumes, in the form of current individuals (autonomous cells), a history of ecological and evolutionary interactions (across cell populations). So one can defend, on those grounds, that living beings have an identity of their own from both approximations: (i) and (ii). These transversal and trans-generational dimensions of biological phenomena, which unfold together with the actual process of biogenesis, must be carefully considered in order to understand the intricacies and metabolic robustness of the first living cells, their underlying uniformity (i.e., their common biochemical core) and the eradication of previous –or alternative– forms of complex natural phenomena. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to the origins of life requires conjugating the actual properties of the developing complex individuals (fusing and dividing protocells, at various stages) with other, population-level features, linked to their collective-evolutionary behaviour, under much wider and longer-term parameters. On these lines, I will argue that life, in its most basic sense, here on Earth or anywhere else, demands crossing a high complexity threshold and that the concept of ‘inter-identity’ can help us realize the different aspects involved in the process.
The talk will be given on 28/04/2020 at 11:30. For participating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 07 April at 11:30, Online (please contact Guglielmo Militello, email@example.com, to participate)
Abstract: In this seminar we will share some ideas about the type of non-equilibrium physico-chemical processes from which more complex, protometabolic reaction pathways and transformation cycles can develop. The concepts of self-organization and self-assembly will be discussed, describing some concrete examples to illustrate them, and explaining why we consider they are relevant but not rich enough to account for minimal forms of metabolism. Autonomy, instead, will be suggested as a more adequate theoretical construct to grasp/explore metabolic dynamics, to be distinguished from a collection of coupled chemical reactions by a set of relational criteria that we are currently working on.
Title: “Biological altruism, eusociality and the superorganism: a critical analysis of the role of biological altruism within eusociality research”
Time: 12/03/2020, 11:00
Place: Sala de Grados, Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología
Relational Basis of the Organism’s Self-organization
Thursday 5 March at 11:15 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)
In this thesis, I discuss the organism’s self-organization from the perspective of relational ontology. I critically examine scientific and philosophical sources that appeal to the concept of self-organization. By doing this, I aim to carry out a thorough investigation into the underlying reasons of emergent order within the ontogeny of the organism. Moreover, I focus on the relation between universal dynamics of organization and the organization of living systems. I provide a historical review of the development of modern ideas related to self-organization. These ideas have been developed in relation to various research areas including thermodynamics, molecular biology, developmental biology, systems theory, and so on. In order to develop a systematic understanding of the concept, I propose a conceptual distinction between transitional self-organization and regulative self-organization. The former refers to the spontaneous emergence of order, whereas the latter refers to the self-maintaining characteristic of the living systems. I show the relation between these two types of organization within biological processes. I offer a critical analysis of various theories within the organizational approach. Several ideas and notions in these theories originate from the early studies in cybernetics. More recently, autopoiesis and the theory of biological autonomy asserted certain claims that were critical toward the ideas related to self-organization. I advocate a general theory of self-organization against these criticisms. I also examine the hierarchical nature of the organism’s organization, as this is essential to understand regulative self-organization. I consider the reciprocal relation between bottom-up and top-down dynamics of organization as the basis of the organism’s individuation. To prove this idea, I appeal to biological research on molecular self-assembly, pattern formation (including reaction-diffusion systems), and the self-organized characteristic of the immune system. Finally, I promote the idea of diachronic emergence by drawing support from biological self-organization. I discuss the ideas related to constraints, potentiality, and dynamic form in an attempt to reveal the emergent nature of the organism. To demonstrate the dynamicity of form, I examine research into biological oscillators. I draw the following conclusions: synchronic condition of the organism is irreducibly processual and relational, and this is the basis of the organism’s potentiality for various organizational states.
Enactivism and the Foundations of Ethics: Some Suggestions on How to Bring the Two Together
Tim Klaassen (Tilburg University)
Tuesday 4 February at 11.30 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)
Can we utilize enactivism as a framework for understanding the foundations of normativity in the moral and political domain? In this talk I suggest a broad outline of an affirmative answer. To begin with, I show, relying on Korsgaard’s “constitutivist” account of the principles of practical reason, that normative standards within the moral domain can be shown to have their source in a moral agent’s distinct mode of autopoiesis. A moral agent is an agent endowed with a specific type of self-consciousness. Because of this, they have a certain degree of freedom in deciding which sensorimotor contingencies they shall adopt to govern their interaction with the environment. As a corollary to this, the world that such agents bring forth, and the kinds of action it affords, comes to have a distinctively moral significance. In the second part of my talk I explore the question of whether, in addition to this kind of “moral enaction” there is also something like a distinctively political form of world-enactment. That is, is there something distinctive about the manner in which institutions are enacted? Relying on the ideas of Hans-Georg Gadamer, I formulate a provisional affirmative answer to this question via the notion of tradition. On this account, tradition is a distinctive and irreducibly social form of enaction through which a world of socio-political institutions is brought forth. Even if this can be established, however, the challenge remains to see whether any normative conclusions can be drawn from it.
The idea of organic “progress” and evolutionary theory: an epistemological perspective
Silvia de Cesare (Université de Genève)
Tuesday 28 January at 11.30 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)
The notion of “progress” can be defined as a directional change towards the better, implying a descriptive and an axiological element. “Organic progress” is the idea that, in the history of life, there has been a change towards organic forms which are “better” than the ancient forms. Several scholars have shown that this idea can be found in Charles Darwin’s thought and continues to provoke debate today. My presentation aims to disentangle conceptual questions about the notion of organic progress. Can we identify a precise notion of progress that would be implied by evolutionary theory? To answer this, it is necessary to make explicit how this notion is related to two concepts: adaptation and function. Following the reasoning of Darwin, Richard Dawkins and George G. Simpson, I clarify the concept of functional improvement of organic traits. I argue that there is an analogy between organic traits and technological objects, explicit in the notion of “arms race” proposed by Dawkins. Analyzing this analogy, I propose a distinction between two levels of axiology, often neglected both in organic and technological domain. I also suggest the hypothesis that the technological analogy may influence the significance that evolutionary biologists attribute to functional improvement.
Do Bacteria Really Talk to Each Other?
Marc Artiga (Universitat de València)
Tuesday January 14 at at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
In the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in bacteria and other microorganisms. This research has provided interested insights into the nature of life (Parke, 2013), cooperation (Lyon, 2007), individuality (Clarke, 2016), species (Franklin, 2007) and other issues in philosophy of science (O’Malley, 2014). In this talk, I will focus on the capacity of some bacteria to produce molecules that are usually classified as ‘signals’ and I would like to defend two claims. First of all, I will argue that in this context expressions such as ‘signalling’ should be taken at face value and that certain interactions between bacteria actually qualify as genuine forms of communication. The second goal is to use this case study to revise our general theories of signalling. In particular, I will argue that there are some aspects of bacterial signalling that do not fit the standard model; some features that usually included in the definition of communication are probably not necessary (e.g. response flexibility) and others that are not included are crucial (e.g. being a minimal cause). Finally, I will discuss the relationship between my proposal and other accounts, such as the ‘influence’ approach and the Organizational Approach to Biological Communication (Frick, Bich and Moreno, 2019).
La patología en la filosofía de la individuación de Gilbert Simondon
Enara García and Iñigo Arandia-Romero (UPV/EHU)
Tuesday 19 November 2019 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
En este trabajo, proponemos mirar en la filosofía de la individuación de Gilbert Simondon para ofrecer un entendimiento de lo patológico desde una ontología procesual y relacional que diluye tanto la discontinuidad entre procesos vitales y psíquicos como la dicotomía entre individuo y sociedad. Simondon propone estudiar, no tanto los individuos ya constituidos, sino el proceso de ontogénesis del individuo que, en el caso del ser humano, está mediado por su participación en lo colectivo. En este proceso, la afectividad juega un papel central, ya que atraviesa tanto la individuación vital, como la psíquica y la colectiva, conectando el conjunto de tensiones y potencialidades existentes previas al proceso de individuación (lo pre-individual) con el individuo constituido. Este cambio de perspectiva permite entender la patología, no en términos normativos, sino como el estudio de la dinámica de la afección, con su historia previa y sus posibilidades de evolución, e influyendo también en nuestra comprensión de los procesos terapéuticos.