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Nuño de la Rosa Laura | Writing-Up Fellow
2011-01-01 - 2011-06-30 | Research area: Philosophy of Biology
The Concept of Organismal Form in Contemporary Biology: A Philosophical Examination
Since Aristotle, organismal form (i.e. the geometrical and topological properties of biological entities at the organismal scale) had a privileged role throughout the history of biology, reaching its maximum splendour by the first half of the 19th century with the so-called rational morphology. After Darwin, morphology was transformed into evolutionary morphology, but the prominence of Form progressively weakened due to the mechanistic attacks coming from a twofold front: the physiological approach to development and the populational approach to evolution. Nonetheless, since the publication of the Origin, ‘heterodox’ philosophers and biologists had claimed that many of the classical questions in philosophy of nature and natural history had not been solved by neo-Darwinism but just ignored. In particular, Modern Synthesis was not satisfying for two of the most important disciplines in the biosciences that have organismal form as their main subject and that were excluded from the Synthesis: morphology and developmental biology. Since the early 1980s the increasing dissatisfaction with the ‘received view’ (in particular the questioning of genetic reductionism and adaptationism) has brought with it new biological disciplines and new conceptual approaches in theoretical biology and philosophy of biology that vindicate the return of organismal form. Taking into account the historical roots of morphological questions, my thesis investigates the current research programs dedicated to the study of the nature, generation and evolutionary transformation of organismal form with the goal of clarifying the philosophical implications of the renewed concept of Form in contemporary biology.