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Understanding immunity: an alternative framework beyond defense and strength

Zach, Martin and Greslehner, Gregor P. (2023) Understanding immunity: an alternative framework beyond defense and strength. Biology & Philosophy, 38 (1). ISSN 1572-8404

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Abstract

In this paper we address the issue of how to think about immunity. Many immunological writings suggest a straightforward option: the view that the immune system is primarily a system of defense, which naturally invites the talk of strong immunity and strong immune response. Despite their undisputable positive role in immunology, such metaphors can also pose a risk of establishing a narrow perspective, omitting from consideration phenomena that do not neatly fit those powerful metaphors. Building on this analysis, we argue two things. First, we argue that the immune system is involved not only in defense. Second, by disentangling various possible meanings of ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ in immunology, we also argue that such a construal of immunity generally contributes to the distortion of the overall picture of what the immune system is, what it does, and why it sometimes fails. Instead, we propose to understand the nature of the immune system in terms of contextuality, regulation, and trade-offs. We suggest that our approach provides lessons for a general understanding of the organizing principles of the immune system in health and disease. For all this to work, we discuss a wide range of immunological phenomena.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Zach, Martinzach@flu.cas.cz0000-0001-7181-0391
Greslehner, Gregor P.gregor.greslehner@gmail.com0000-0002-4072-8229
Additional Information: Published via Open Access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Immune system, Contextuality, Regulation, Trade-offs, Strong immunity, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Health and Disease
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Depositing User: Dr. Martin Zach
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2023 14:56
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2023 14:56
Item ID: 21764
Journal or Publication Title: Biology & Philosophy
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-023-09893-2
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-023-09893-2
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Health and Disease
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Date: 15 February 2023
Volume: 38
Number: 1
ISSN: 1572-8404
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/21764

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