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Bertolaso Marta | Fellow Visitor
2018-08-26 - 2018-09-03 | Research area: Philosophy of Biology
Interactions between Metaphysics and Biology: the case of teleology. A comparison between development and cancer

In recent work, Daniel McShea has proposed to understand biological teleology in the framework of the theory of compositional hierarchies, so that containing structures or systems are the source of direction (teleology) of contained substructures or subsystems (McShea 2012). He offers examples of developmental processes, in particular of primary mesenchyme cell migration in skeleton formation of sea urchin embryos. Recent work in biology and philosophy of cancer also seems to point in the same direction, since the fate of the cells seems to depend on the context in which they are (Bertolaso2016; Tata et al. 2018). But on the other hand, developmental and neoplastic processes are different as cancer can be described precisely as the pathology of development. In this project we intend to address this apparent tension and explore the consequences that such comparison between development and cancer has for contemporary philosophical debates on biological teleology. We hope that this will allow us to defend also, as a secondary aim, the plausibility of a fertile interaction between analytic metaphysics and biology, in particular, an interaction that can be described as “philosophy FROM biology”, that is, the consequences that biological discoveries have for philosophy.