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Organisms as Persisters

Smith, Subrena E. (2017) Organisms as Persisters. Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, 9 (14). ISSN 2475-3025

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Abstract

This paper addresses the question of what organisms are and therefore what kinds of biological entities qualify as organisms. For some time now, the concept of organismality has been eclipsed by the notion of individuality. Biological individuals are those systems that are units of selection. I develop a conception of organismality that does not rely on evolutionary considerations, but instead draws on development and ecology. On this account, organismality and individuality can come apart. Organisms, in my view, are as Godfrey-Smith puts it “essentially persisters.” I argue that persistence is underpinned by differentiation, integration, development, and the constitutive embeddedness of organisms in their worlds. I examine two marginal cases, the Portuguese Man O’ War and the honey bee colony, and show that both count as organisms in light of my analysis. Next, I examine the case of holobionts, hosts plus their microsymbionts, and argue that they can be counted as organisms even though they may not be biological individuals. Finally, I consider the question of whether other, less tightly integrated biological systems might also be treated as organisms.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Smith, Subrena E.subrena.smith@unh.edu
Keywords: development, environment, Peter Godfrey-Smith, holobionts, organisms, persistence
Depositing User: Nora Boyd
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2018 16:18
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2018 16:18
Item ID: 14545
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.3998/ptb.6959004.0009.014
Date: 2017
Volume: 9
Number: 14
ISSN: 2475-3025
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14545

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