Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology
Nicholson (Daniel J.) & Dupre (John), Eds.
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Oxford Scholarship Online Abstract

  1. This collection of essays explores the metaphysical thesis that the living world is not ontologically made up of substantial particles or things, as has often been assumed, but is rather constituted by processes. The biological domain is organized as an interdependent hierarchy of processes, which are stabilized and actively maintained at different timescales. Even entities that intuitively appear to be paradigms of things, such as organisms, are actually better understood as processes.
  2. Unlike previous attempts to articulate processual views of biology, which have tended to use Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychist metaphysics as a foundation, this book takes a naturalistic approach to metaphysics. It submits that the main motivations for replacing an ontology of substances with one of processes are to be looked for in the empirical findings of science.
  3. Biology provides compelling reasons for thinking that the living realm is fundamentally dynamic and that the existence of things is always conditional on the existence of processes. The phenomenon of life cries out for theories that prioritize processes over things, and it suggests that the central explanandum of biology is not change but rather stability — or, more precisely, stability attained through constant change.
  4. This multi-contributor volume brings together philosophers of science and metaphysicians interested in exploring the consequences of a processual philosophy of biology. The contributors draw on an extremely wide range of biological case studies and employ a process perspective to cast new light on a number of traditional philosophical problems such as identity, persistence, and individuality.

  1. Part I: Introduction
    1. A Manifesto for a Processual Philosophy of Biology
      → John Dupré and Daniel J. Nicholson
  2. Part II: Metaphysics
    1. Processes and Precipitates
      → Peter Simons
    2. Dispositionalism
      → Rani Lill Anjum and Stephen Mumford
    3. Biological Processes
      → James DiFrisco
    4. Genidentity and Biological Processes
      → Thomas Pradeu
    5. Ontological Tools for the Process Turn in Biology
      → Johanna Seibt
  3. Part III Organisms
    1. Reconceptualizing the Organism
      → Daniel J. Nicholson
    2. Objectcy and Agency
      → Denis M. Walsh
    3. Symbiosis, Transient Biological Individuality, and Evolutionary Processes
      → Frédéric Bouchard
    4. From Organizations of Processes to Organisms and Other Biological Individuals
      → Argyris Arnellos
  4. Part IV: Development and Evolution
    1. Developmental Systems Theory as a Process Theory
      → Paul Griffiths and Karola Stotz
    2. Waddington’s Processual Epigenetics and the Debate over Cryptic Variability
      → Flavia Fabris
    3. Capturing Processes
      → Laura Nuño de la Rosa
    4. Intersecting Processes Are Necessary Explanantia for Evolutionary Biology, but Challenge Retrodiction
      → Eric Bapteste and Gemma Anderson
  5. Part V: Implications and Applications
    1. A Process Ontology for Macromolecular Biology
      → Stephan Guttinger
    2. A Processual Perspective on Cancer
      → Marta Bertolaso and John Dupré
    3. Measuring the World
      → Ann-Sophie Barwich
    4. Persons as Biological Processes
      → Anne Sophie Meincke

  • Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • Downloaded under Open Access from Oxford Scholarship Online, 10 October 2020.

"Dupre (John) & Nicholson (Daniel J.), Eds. - Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology"

Source: Nicholson (Daniel J.) & Dupre (John), Eds. - Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology

"Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Persons as Biological Processes: A Bio-Processual Way Out of the Personal Identity Dilemma"

Source: Everything Flows. Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology, ed. by D. J. Nicholson & J. A. Dupré, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 357-378.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Persons exist longer than a single moment in time; they persist through time. Strikingly enough, we are still in need of a theory that makes this natural and widespread assumption metaphysically comprehensible. Metaphysicians are deeply divided on how to account for personal identity and on whether there is such a thing at all. Many have actually cast doubt on the latter, thereby following the sceptical path famously taken by David Hume.
  2. The reason why we haven’t found so far a waterproof metaphysical justification for our everyday belief in personal identity might lie in the fact that personal identity is an illusion. It might, however, equally lie in the insufficiency of the explanatory approaches hitherto taken. Is it really, to speak with Hume, the question of personal identity that is ‘abstruse’, or do we rather have to blame the metaphysicians for having failed to grasp the problem correctly1?
  3. In this chapter I shall pursue the second of these two options. I take it that the accounts of personal identity put forward so far fail for fundamental reasons: they are committed to the wrong kind of ontology. In fact the debate on personal identity is stuck in a dilemma, manifest in the antagonism between reductionist theories, which reduce the identity of persons to weaker continuity relations, and non-reductionist theories, which declare it to be a primitive ‘further fact’. Personal identity is either eliminated or mystified.
  4. I wish to claim that this dilemma is a special case of a general dilemma of persistence, and that it can be overcome only if we replace the underlying metaphysical framework, shared by both sides of the debate, with a new one. Thing ontology, which gives priority to unchanging static things, must give way to process ontology, which takes process and change to be ontologically primary.
  5. I shall defend this claim in three steps:
    1. First, I shall briefly present the dilemma of personal identity.
    2. Second, I shall identify the thing-ontological roots of the dilemma. These roots can be traced — through reductionism’s and non-reductionism’s disagreements on what persons are (bundle theory vs substance theory), on what constitutes reality most fundamentally (Humean ontology vs substance ontology) and on what persistence is (perdurantism2 vs endurantism3) — back to a striking similarity: the disappearance of change on both sides.
    3. On the basis of this analysis, I shall demonstrate, third, how acknowledging the biological nature of human persons and switching to a process-ontological framework4 accordingly lays the foundations for a convincing account of personal identity exactly by rehabilitating change.
  6. I shall conclude by highlighting the most important assets and implications of such a move, as well as by indicating key tasks for further elaborating a bioprocess view of personal identity.

  • Pre-print retrieved from Academia.edu, 5 August 2020
  • Published version retrieved from Oxford Scholarship Online - Open Access - on 10 October 2020.
  • Hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".

In-Page Footnotes ("Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Persons as Biological Processes: A Bio-Processual Way Out of the Personal Identity Dilemma")

Footnote 1:
  • Interestingly, Hume’s own position on this matter is ultimately not entirely clear either, as evidenced by the famous ‘Appendix on Personal Identity’ in his Treatise, where he complains about the result of his philosophical analysis being no less absurd than the absurdities it was meant to overcome; see Hume 1966: 317. See also the detailed discussion in Meincke 2015 (ch. 3.1).

"Simons (Peter) - Processes and Precipitates"

Source: Nicholson (Daniel J.) & Dupre (John), Eds. - Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology

Author’s Abstract
  1. Biology is about things: organisms, but also about the processes in which they and their parts are involved as participants — reproduction, growth, respiration, hibernation, migration, interaction, selection, adaptation, evolution. The deeper one goes, the more these processes seem to matter — processes such as mitosis, meiosis, catabolism, anabolism, and so on. Yet at each stage we are confronted with the same dichotomy between things and the processes in which they are involved, down to molecules and their reactions.
  2. Is it possible to conceptualize a metaphysically superior revisionist biology in which everything basic is processual, without losing touch with the things of standard biological discourse? This chapter argues that it is, by understanding continuant things as precipitates of processes and thus by construing the whole organic sphere as au fond processual.

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