Congratulations to visiting fellow Leo Bich for signing a book contract with Cambridge University Press. Titled "Biological Organization," it will be part of the Cambridge Elements in Philosophy of Biology series.
Organisms are complex systems made of components that tend to degrade, but nonetheless they maintain themselves far from equilibrium. This requires performing work: an organism must extract free energy and materials from the environment and use them to build, repair, and maintain its parts and ultimately itself. Moreover, organisms do not just replace and repair their parts, but also respond to variations in their internal and external conditions by modifying their activities and their uses of energy and materials in ways that allow them to keep living under changing conditions.
The philosophical and theoretical framework discussed in his book aims to explain these features of biological systems by appealing to their organization. This framework is being applied in philosophy of biology to a wide range of topics, spanning from definitions of life to biological teleology and functions. One of its distinctive features is that it addresses classical and more recent issues in philosophy of biology from an original perspective mainly focused on the organism, its physiology and behaviour, rather than evolution.
The book will present and discuss the core ideas of this framework, such as organizational closure, and how they originated. It will analyse in more detail how these ideas are being developed by recent and current research: from the introduction of the notion of closure of constraint to that of regulatory control. It will put these ideas into a wider context by clarifying differences with other uses of the notion of organization in philosophy of biology, such as network motifs and organizing principles, and by discussing the relationships between the notion of organization employed in this research tradition and those used by new mechanists, among others. It will discuss applications of the organizational framework to philosophical issues such as biological teleology and functions, and to specific biological case studies such as origins of life and biological communication, which exemplify some of the core operational and explanatory features of this framework. It will also introduce the reader to some open challenges to this approach, for example the debate on biological individuality.
You can read more about Bich's project at the KLI here: Biological Individuality: a theoretical framework based on physiological control