- Questions of the identity of an individual are widely recognised as being intimately connected with the question of a kind to which the individual belongs.
- While metaphysicians have traditionally appealed to Aristotle’s hylomorphist idea of an essential form shared by different individuals, philosophers of biology have generally assumed that the relevant kinds should be the species (or perhaps higher taxa) provided by broadly Darwinian evolutionary biology.
- In his chapter, ‘The Origins and Evolution of Animal Identity’, theoretical biologist Stuart A. Newman argues that this is a mistake. Because of their variability, both synchronic and diachronic, species provide poor candidates for natural kinds, a fact which has contributed to scepticism about the uniqueness and objectivity of biological individuality.
- However, focusing on the underlying processes by which liquid tissues diversify into a relatively small number of basic forms offers a more promising approach.
- What Newman calls physicalist evolutionary developmental biology can provide categories prior to phylogenetic kinds, and suited to the application of concepts of natural kind, essence, and even, in a broadly Kantian sense, natural purpose.
- Newman offers a sketch of the evolution of individuality that emphasises the interaction of genetic factors with the physics of biological materials, and thus the gradual emancipation of biological form from the former through the emergence of new, genuinely processual biomaterials.
I don't yet have a copy of this paper. I will buy the book when it comes out.
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