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Genes and the Agents of Life : The Individual in the Fragile Sciences Biology - Robert A. Wilson

Genes and the Agents of Life

The Individual in the Fragile Sciences Biology

Paperback Published: 29th December 2004
ISBN: 9780521544955
Number Of Pages: 296

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What are the agents of life? Central to our conception of the biological world is the idea that it contains various kinds of individuals, including genes, organisms, and species. How we conceive of these agents of life is central to our understanding of the relationship between life and mind, the place of hierarchical thinking in the biological sciences, and pluralistic views of biological agency. Genes and the Agents of Life rethinks the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life, but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. A companion to Boundaries of the Mind, (Cambridge, 2004) where the focus is on the cognitive sciences, this volume will appeal to professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds (Cambridge, 1995).

Industry Reviews

"Wilson provides an important new perspective on many of the key problems in the philosophy of biology through his highly original focus on the locus of agency in explanations. Any philosopher with interests in the life or human sciences will gain valuable new insights from this work." Paul E. Griffiths, University of Pittsburgh "This is a bold, absorbing, and deeply-informed book...[Wilson's] views are often controversial and provocative, but always clearly and lucidly argued. As well as fostering productive debate within the philosophy of biology, this book has the potential to show a much wider audience why this discipline is currently so exciting." John Dupre, University of Exeter

List of Tables and Figuresp. xii
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Individuals, Agency, and Biology
Individuals and Biologyp. 3
Individuals and the Living Worldp. 3
Life and Mindp. 4
Agents: Biological, Living, and Otherp. 6
Species and Natural Kinds: The Aristotelian Shadowp. 9
Pluralism, Realism, and Sciencep. 11
Within the Evolutionary Hierarchy: Genes, Organisms, Groupsp. 14
Biology and the Fragile Sciencesp. 17
A Path Through Genes and the Agents of Lifep. 21
Thinking about Biological Agentsp. 23
Tools of the Tradep. 23
Three Forms of Individualism in Biologyp. 24
Taxonomy and Taxonomic Practicesp. 30
The Art of Hierarchical Thinking in Biologyp. 31
Methodology and Metaphysicsp. 33
Properties, Realization, and Determinationp. 35
Smallism and Biologyp. 38
The Cognitive Metaphorp. 41
Species, Organisms, and Biological Natural Kinds
What Is an Organism?p. 47
The Familiar and Puzzling World of Organismsp. 47
Organisms and Life: The Simple Viewp. 50
Problems for the Simple Viewp. 51
Natural Kinds, Essentialism, and Scientific Realismp. 53
Natural Kinds as Homeostatic Property Clusters: Living Agentsp. 55
The Tripartite View of Organismsp. 59
Life Cyclesp. 59
Autonomyp. 62
Two Precursors: Herbert Spencer and Julian Huxleyp. 65
Exploring the Tripartite Viewp. 70
Realism and Agencyp. 70
A Role for the Cognitive Metaphorp. 74
The Crystallization Thesis and Nonbiological Agentsp. 76
Capturing Organismal Diversityp. 79
Corporate Organismsp. 80
The Priority of Organisms and the Early History of Lifep. 84
Artificial and Natural Lifep. 91
The Restoration of the Organismp. 94
Specious Individualsp. 96
Species and the Linnaean Hierarchyp. 96
Realism, Pluralism, and Individualityp. 98
Individuality and Species Taxap. 99
Pluralism and the Species Categoryp. 101
Between Traditional Realism, Individuality, and Pluralism: The Case of Neural Taxonomyp. 103
Homeostatic Property Clusters and the Revival of Essentialismp. 107
The Individuality Thesis Reconsideredp. 113
Pluralism Reconsideredp. 115
Realism, Essence, and Kindp. 117
Genes and Organismic Development
Genetic Agencyp. 121
Genes and Genetic Agencyp. 121
The Concept of the Genep. 122
The Selfish Gene and the Cognitive Metaphorp. 126
The Extended Phenotype and Wide Systemsp. 128
Genetic Programs, Codes, and Blueprintsp. 133
Conceptualizing Developmentp. 138
Genes, Development, and Individualismp. 138
Individualism within Developmental Geneticsp. 141
A Closer Look at the Case of Hox Genesp. 143
Developmental Systems Theory: From Critique to Visionp. 148
Developmental Systems and Locational Externalismp. 151
Resources and Systems: Some Conceptual Tighteningp. 152
Resource Sharing and Life's Complicationsp. 155
The Smallist Embracep. 157
Extending Physiology, Niche Construction, and Inheritancep. 159
Groups and Natural Selection
Groups as Agents of Selectionp. 167
Darwin's Legacyp. 167
Organisms as Agents of Selectionp. 170
Genes and Groups as Agents of Selection: A Historical Sketchp. 172
The Problem of Altruismp. 177
Altruism Beyond the Standard Darwinian Viewp. 179
Articulating Group Selectionp. 182
The Arbitrariness and Ephemerality Problemsp. 183
Trait Groups and Superorganismsp. 184
Species and Clade Selectionp. 189
Arguing about Group Selection: The Myxoma Casep. 194
Group Selection in the Wildp. 194
Test Cases and Resolvabilityp. 195
The Case of the Myxoma Virus: A Sketch and Two Interpretationsp. 197
The State of Things: Averaging and the Status of Groupsp. 199
A Little More on the Virology and Epidemiology of Myxomatosisp. 203
Why Further Details Reinforce the Irresolvability Claimp. 207
Decisiveness, Viewpoints, and Agencyp. 212
How Deep Does Irresolvability Reach?p. 215
Pluralism, Entwinement, and the Agents of Selectionp. 218
The Pluralistic Tenor of the Timesp. 218
Two Kinds of Pluralism about the Levels of Selectionp. 219
A Closer Look at Model Pluralismp. 222
Representation, Translation, and Levelsp. 225
Entwined Levels of Selectionp. 231
Levels, Entwinement, and the Metaphysics of Sciencep. 237
The Lure of Smallism and the Cognitive Metaphorp. 239
Beyond Metaphor's Graspp. 241
Notesp. 243
Referencesp. 269
Indexp. 285
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780521544955
ISBN-10: 0521544955
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 296
Published: 29th December 2004
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 14.61  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.42