SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

How Research on Microbiomes is Changing the Concept of the Organism in Biological Sciences
(Philosophy of Science, English)

Multicellular organisms contain numerous symbiotic microorganisms, collectively called microbiomes. Recently, microbiomic research has shown that these microorganisms are responsible for the proper functioning of many of the systems (digestive, immune, nervous, etc.) of multicellular organisms. This has inclined some scholars to argue that it is about time to reconceptualise the organism and to develop a concept that would place the greatest emphasis on the vital role of microorganisms in the life of plants and animals. We believe that, unfortunately, there is a problem with this suggestion, since there is no such thing as a universal concept of the organism which could constitute a basis for all biological sciences. Rather, the opposite is true: numerous alternative definitions exist. Therefore, comprehending how microbiomics is changing our understanding of organisms may be a very complex matter. In this paper we will demonstrate that this pluralism proves that claims about a change in our understanding of organisms can be treated as both true and untrue. Mainly, we assert that the existing concepts differ substantially, and that only some of them have to be reconsidered in order to incorporate the discoveries of microbiomics, while others are already flexible enough to do so. Taking into account the plurality of conceptualisations within different branches of modern biology, we will conduct our discussion using the developmental and the cooperation-conflict concepts of the organism. Then we will explain our results by referring to the recent philosophical debate on the nature of the concept of the organism within biology.

Chair: Till Gallasch
Time: 18:20-18:50, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.005

Adrian Stencel 
(Jagiellonian University, Polska)

Adrian Stencel is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Jagiellonian University. He works mainly in philosophy of biology, with strong interest in the conceptual and foundational issues surrounding the theory of evolution, population biology and microbiology.

Agnieszka Proszewska 
(Jagiellonian University, Polska)

Agnieszka Proszewska is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant in the Department of Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, where she teaches logic and set theory, epistemology and theory of computation. She graduated from Philosophy and Swedish Philology at the Jagiellonian University and currently she is also working on her Master's thesis in theoretical computer science at the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science. Her research interests focus on the philosophy of natural sciences, structural frameworks and mathematical logic.

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