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Control Mechanisms: Explaining the Integration and Versatility of Biological Organisms

Bich, Leonardo and Bechtel, William (2022) Control Mechanisms: Explaining the Integration and Versatility of Biological Organisms. Adaptive Behavior.

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Abstract

Living organisms act as integrated wholes to maintain themselves. Individual actions can each be explained by characterizing the mechanisms that perform the activity. But these alone do not explain how various activities are coordinated and performed versatilely. We argue that this depends on a specific type of mechanism, a control mechanism. We develop an account of control by examining several extensively studied control mechanisms operative in the bacterium E. coli. On our analysis, what distinguishes a control mechanism from other mechanisms is that it relies on measuring one or more variables, which results in setting constraints in the control mechanism that determine its action on flexible constraints in other mechanisms. In the most basic arrangement, the measurement process directly determines the action of the control mechanism, but in more complex arrangements signals mediate between measurements and effectors. This opens the possibility of multiple responses to the same measurement and responses based on multiple measurements. It also allows crosstalk, resulting in networks of control mechanisms. Such networks integrate the behaviors of the organism but also present a challenge in tailoring responses to particular measurements. We discuss how integrated activity can still result in differential, versatile, responses.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bich, Leonardoleonardo.bich@ehu.es0000-0002-2416-112X
Bechtel, Williambechtel@ucsd.edu0000-0001-6370-5321
Keywords: adaptive and versatile behavior; control mechanisms; crosstalk; integration; Escherichia coli.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Depositing User: Dr. Leonardo Bich
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2022 02:16
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2022 02:16
Item ID: 20175
Journal or Publication Title: Adaptive Behavior
Publisher: Sage
Official URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/105971232...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1177/10597123221074429
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Date: 27 January 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20175

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