Diachronic Identity in Complex Life Cycles: An Organizational Perspective
DiFrisco (James) & Mossio (Matteo)
Source: Dupré, J. (ed.): Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology, (History and Philosophy of Biology), Routledge, In press.
Paper - Abstract

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Authors’ Abstract

  1. What does it mean to be the same organism over time? This chapter develops an understanding of diachronic identity of organisms from an organizational perspective.
  2. We argue that a necessary condition for diachronic identity is organizational continuity, i.e., the presence of a continuous causal1 process linking successive organizational regimes, irrespective of material and functional changes.
  3. Organizational continuity is not a sufficient condition, however, because it cannot discriminate between the development of the same individual and the reproduction of a new individual.
  4. We therefore suggest that there are temporal boundaries of identity when there are changes in the number of continuous organized systems, which occurs through fission2, fusion3, or a combination of the two.
  5. We discuss the utility of the resulting organizational view, as well as its relations with other approaches to biological individuality.

Editors’ Abstract4
  1. James DiFrisco and Matteo Mossio’s essay, ‘Diachronic Identity in Complex Life Cycles: An Organisational Perspective’, is concerned, too5, with the diachronic dimension of biological identity, and hence with the problem of variability within the life cycle.
  2. However, they argue that conditions of diachronic identity cannot be found in any constant properties of the organism nor in a Wiggins-style principle of activity, but must be sought in relations of causal continuity (also known as genidentity) between temporal parts of the organism understood as a four-dimensional causal process.
  3. More specifically (i.e., in contrast to common genidentity accounts), they describe a sufficient condition for diachronic identity, organizational continuity, which besides spatiotemporal continuity has as a second component a causal structure they call closure of constraints.
  4. Whereas a constraint, in their terminology, is a feature that acts to limit possible transformations without itself being affected by the interaction, closure of constraints refers to a number of such individual constraints which together determine the thermodynamic flow within a system.
  5. It is this that allows a properly organized system to persist through time. An obvious problem that needs to be addressed within this approach is that it does not immediately distinguish development from reproduction, and a large part of the chapter is devoted to exploring ways of dealing with fission, fusion, and sexual reproduction within this general framework.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 4: Footnote 5:

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