Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives

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Scott Lidgard, Lynn K. Nyhart
University of Chicago Press, May 24, 2017 - Science - 361 pages
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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.

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Working Together on Individuality Lynn K Nyhart and Scott Lidgard
Concepts and Contexts Scott Lidgard and Lynn K Nyhart
Individuality in the Volvocine Algae Matthew D Herron
3 Individuality and the Control of Life Cycles Beckett Sterner
CellCell Communication and the Development of Cell Sociology Andrew S Reynolds
5 Alternation of Generations and Individuality 1851 Lynn K Nyhart and Scott Lidgard
From Liminal Individuals to Implicit Collectivities Snait Gissis
From Martin Heidenhains Synthesiology to the Völkisch National Community Olivier Rieppel
10 Bodily Parts in the StructureFunction Dialectic Ingo Brigandt
Historical Biological and Philosophical Perspectives
Resilient Essentialisms and Empirical Challenges in the History of Biological Individuality James Elwick
A Relational Reading Scott F Gilbert
13 Philosophical Dimensions of Individuality Alan C Love and Ingo Brigandt
List of Contributors

8 Parasitology Zoology and Society in France ca 18801920 Michael A Osborne
9 Metabolism Autonomy and Individuality Hannah Landecker

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About the author (2017)

Scott Lidgard is the MacArthur Associate Curator of Fossil Invertebrates in the Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum, Chicago, and a lecturer in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. He is coeditor of Evolutionary Patterns: Growth, Form, and Tempo in the Fossil Record, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Skokie, IL. Lynn K. Nyhart is the Vilas-Bablitch-Kelch Distinguished Achievement Professor of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin‒Madison. She is the author, most recently, of Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany, also published by the University of Chicago Press. She lives in Madison, WI.

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