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Biological Individuality

Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives

Edited by Scott Lidgard and Lynn K. Nyhart

Biological Individuality

Edited by Scott Lidgard and Lynn K. Nyhart

400 pages | 14 halftones, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226446455 Published May 2017
Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 9780226446318 Published May 2017
E-book $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226446592 Published May 2017
Individuals are things that everybody knows—or thinks they do. Yet even scholars who practice or analyze the biological sciences often cannot agree on what an individual is and why. One reason for this disagreement is that the many important biological individuality concepts serve very different purposes—defining, classifying, or explaining living structure, function, interaction, persistence, or evolution. Indeed, as the contributors to Biological Individuality reveal, nature is too messy for simple definitions of this concept, organisms too quirky in the diverse ways they reproduce, function, and interact, and human ideas about individuality too fraught with philosophical and historical meaning.

Bringing together biologists, historians, and philosophers, this book provides a multifaceted exploration of biological individuality that identifies leading and less familiar perceptions of individuality both past and present, what they are good for, and in what contexts. Biological practice and theory recognize individuals at myriad levels of organization, from genes to organisms to symbiotic systems. We depend on these notions of individuality to address theoretical questions about multilevel natural selection and Darwinian fitness; to illuminate empirical questions about development, function, and ecology; to ground philosophical questions about the nature of organisms and causation; and to probe historical and cultural circumstances that resonate with parallel questions about the nature of society. Charting an interdisciplinary research agenda that broadens the frameworks in which biological individuality is discussed, this book makes clear that in the realm of the individual, there is not and should not be a direct path from biological paradigms based on model organisms through to philosophical generalization and historical reification.

Introduction: Working Together on Individuality
Lynn K. Nyhart and Scott Lidgard

l The Work of Biological Individuality: Concepts and Contexts
Scott Lidgard and Lynn K. Nyhart

2 Cells, Colonies, and Clones: Individuality in the Volvocine Algae
Matthew D. Herron

3 Individuality and the Control of Life Cycles
Beckett Sterner

4  Discovering the Ties That Bind: Cell-Cell Communication and the Development of Cell Sociology
Andrew S. Reynolds

5 Alternation of Generations and Individuality, 1851
Lynn K. Nyhart and Scott Lidgard

6 Spencer’s Evolutionary Entanglement: From Liminal Individuals to Implicit Collectivities
Snait Gissis

7 Biological Individuality and Enkapsis: From Martin Heidenhain’s Synthesiology to the Völkisch National Community
Olivier Rieppel

8 Parasitology, Zoology, and Society in France, ca. 1880–1920
Michael A. Osborne

9 Metabolism, Autonomy, and Individuality
Hannah Landecker

10 Bodily Parts in the Structure-Function Dialectic
Ingo Brigandt
Commentaries: Historical, Biological, and Philosophical Perspectives

11 Distrust That Particular Intuition: Resilient Essentialisms and Empirical Challenges in the History of Biological Individuality
James Elwick

12 Biological Individuality: A Relational Reading
Scott F. Gilbert

13 Philosophical Dimensions of Individuality
Alan C. Love and Ingo Brigandt

List of Contributors

Review Quotes
Paul Griffiths, University of Sydney, coauthor of "Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction"
“Individuality is one of the hottest topics in the philosophy of biology today. The recent, technologically driven explosion of knowledge about the microbial world has led both biologists and philosophers to reconsider the traditional idea that organisms are genetically uniform populations of cells with a clear physical boundary—bodies. Very up-to-date, containing a number of substantial original contributions, and with a good balance of historians, philosophers, and eminent scientists, Biological Individuality is well positioned to represent the most exciting strands of the current debate.”
Paul Lawrence Farber, Oregon State University, emeritus, author of "Finding Order in Nature: The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E. O. Wilson"
“A tour de force inquiry of individuality that proposes a fruitful perspective that potentially resolves many of its disparate definitions. Biological Individuality reflects the strengths of cross-disciplinary research on fundamental biological concepts.”
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