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Living Objects

Hermida, Margarida and Ladyman, James (2022) Living Objects. [Preprint]

Hermida&Ladyman2022_Living Objects_preprint.pdf

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This paper addresses the question ‘what is an organism?’. Extant theories of organismality only provide a partial answer because they do not include an account of composition on which an ontology of living entities can be based. Here we develop a new account of what organisms are, based on a naturalistic answer to the special composition question, the bound state view. We argue that physical structure, including the existence of a boundary, is essential for life, and that, therefore, organisms are a particular kind of composite physical object – living objects. The bound state account of composition explains how composite physical objects exist in the world, and the property ‘life’ distinguishes the subset of those objects which are organisms. Our view obviates the need for disjunctive accounts of composition for living and non-living entities, placing ‘organism’ within the context of a broader scientific ontology, while at the same time providing a clear criterion of organismality that can be used in adjudicating problematic cases of biological individuality.

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Item Type: Preprint
Additional Information: A previous version of this paper was presented at the 7th Annual Conference of the Society for the Metaphysics of Science, September 2022
Keywords: Composition; Organisms; Objects; Special Composition Question; Bound State
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology
Depositing User: Dr. Margarida Hermida
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2022 17:39
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 17:39
Item ID: 21430
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology
Date: 15 November 2022

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