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Complex emergence and the living organization: an epistemological framework for biology

Bich, Leonardo (2012) Complex emergence and the living organization: an epistemological framework for biology. Synthese, 185 (2). pp. 215-232. ISSN 1573-0964

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Abstract

In this article an epistemological framework is proposed in order to integrate
the emergentist thought with systemic studies on biological autonomy, which
are focused on the role of organization. Particular attention will be paid to the role
of the observer’s activity, especially: (a) the different operations he performs in order
to identify the pertinent elements at each descriptive level, and (b) the relationships
between the different models he builds from them. According to the approach sustained
here, organization will be considered as the result of a specific operation of identifi-
cation of the relational properties of the functional components of a system, which
do not necessarily coincide with the intrinsic properties of its structural constituents.
Also, an epistemological notion of emergence—that of “complex emergence”—will
be introduced, which can be defined as the insufficiency, even in principle, of a single
descriptive modality to provide a complete description of certain classes of systems.
This integrative framework will allow us to deal with two issues in biological and
emergentist studies: (1) distinguishing the autonomy proper of living systems from
some physical processes like those of structural stability and pattern generation, and
(2) reconsidering the notion of downward causation not as a direct or indirect influence
of the whole on its parts, but instead as an epistemological problem of interaction
between descriptive domains in which the concept of organization proposed and the
observational operations related to it play a crucial role.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bich, Leonardoleonardo.bich@ehu.es
Keywords: autopoiesis; biological autonomy; complex emergence; downward causation; organization; pattern generation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Dr. Leonardo Bich
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2016 13:49
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2016 13:49
Item ID: 11871
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Official URL: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11229-...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-010-9722-6
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 2012
Page Range: pp. 215-232
Volume: 185
Number: 2
ISSN: 1573-0964
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11871

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