SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Philosophy of Aging: Theoretical and Practical Aspects
(Angegliederter Workshop, English)

This interdisciplinary workshop aims at bringing together philosophers and scientists working on aging. While being a booming field of gerontological research, aging has not received much attention from philosophers of science. Besides obvious bioethical issues (e.g., should we cure aging? what would be the possible consequences of super-longevity?), there are a number of pressing philosophical issues that concern theoretical and practical aspects of aging research. Establishing and addressing these questions surrounding aging would benefit from philosophical approaches and conceptual clarification -- in addition to the scientific methods already at work. Explicitly formulating and addressing such issues by working in a close collaboration of scientists and philosophers, we attempt a step towards establishing philosophy of aging as a field of research in philosophy of biology, medicine, and technology.


16:15--16:30 Pablo García-Barranquero & Gregor Greslehner: Introduction: Towards a Philosophy of Aging
16:30--17:00 Cristian Saborido with Pablo García-Barranquero (presenting author): Is Aging a Disease? The Theoretical Definition of Aging in the Light of the Philosophy of Medicine
17:00--17:30 Michael Breitenbach: Remarks on the Biology of Aging
17:30--17:45 coffee break
17:45--18:15 Mark Rinnerthaler: From Lifespan to Healthspan
18:15--18:45 Stefano Giaimo: Defining Aging in Evolutionary Biology
18:45--19:00 coffee break
19:00--19:30 Günter Lepperdinger: Longevity and Sexual Selection
19:30-- 20:00 Gregor Greslehner & Maël Lemoine: Are Microbial Changes a Cause or an Effect of Aging?


Cristian Saborido (Madrid) with Pablo García-Barranquero (Málaga) (presenting author): Is Aging a Disease? The Theoretical Definition of Aging in the Light of the Philosophy of Medicine
In this talk, I attempt to shed light on the philosophical debate about the theoretical definition of aging from the discussion of the notion of disease in the philosophy of medicine. As a result, I introduce a concrete approach -- the pragmatist approach to aging -- to account for the theoretical relationship between the notions of disease and aging, as they are addressed in the philosophy of aging. To that end, the structure of this work is as follows: first, in section 2, I analyze the discussion between the two major positions in this debate, and introduce the influential accounts of authors such as Hayflick, Schramme, Caplan, Murphy, and Callahan & Topinkova. I will show that in this discussion it is being assumed by some authors that the definition of disease is univocal and corresponds to what some of these authors understand as a "non-natural state". The motivation of this is straightforward: in order to decide if aging should be defined as a disease we need to clarify first what a disease is and what implies to characterize something as such. In section 3, I will show that the disagreement between those who argue that aging is a disease and those who claim that it is not is ultimately based on an assumption of different notions of disease. In addition, I will also turn to the debate on disease in the philosophy of medicine to analyze the proposals of Callahan & Topinkova and Murphy. These authors advocate avoiding the question of whether or not aging is a disease for pragmatic reasons. The important thing would not be to define aging as a disease but to medically treat it as such. I propose to reformulate this proposal of pragmatic motivation to frame it in an approach to the concept of disease, which I call "pragmatist", that has advocated philosophers of medicine such as Cooper or Hofmann. I think that this pragmatist approach addresses the issue of medical categorization of aging in a more scientific and philosophical fruitful way.

Michael Breitenbach (University of Salzburg): Remarks on the Biology of Aging
Biologists started studying aging in earnest slightly more than 100 years ago. The question they asked (and we still ask today) is: What is the cause of aging? If there would be a clear-cut answer, we could possibly get a hint how to halt aging. This would possibly mean rejuvenation not only of cells but also of an aged individual. This is the reason why so many billionaires donate money to support aging research and to found new aging research institutions, for instance in California, in Moscow and in other places. Very bluntly: They don't want to die and they think that money can buy eternal life.
What I will do in my short presentation is to present the most prominent TOAs (theories of aging) and show why they are wrong or why they grossly overstate their message, in every case.
What can analytical philosophy (or philosophy in general) contribute to resolve this conundrum? In my view: It can and should help to develop a so-called regimented language for a theory of aging within which, firstly, the terms and concepts of the theory can be correctly and adequately defined, and, secondly, it can be determined exactly whether the logical rules of reasoning are obeyed or violated.

Mark Rinnerthaler (University of Salzburg): From Lifespan to Healthspan
In Austria the lifespan is still constantly increasing. In the last decade men gained 1.7 years and women 1.05 years. Which does not go along with this increase in years is the healthspan, the part of life during which a person is good in health. It is calculated that in the last 3 years of life the costs for health care explode. Therefore a paradigm shift has taken place in geroscience. The "hot topic" in aging research is not the prolongation of life anymore. Instead the improvement of health in the last years of life has moved into the focus. In this talk several lifestyle interventions will be presented that increase both, the lifespan as well as healthspan. Such interventions include the uptake of active ingredients of the red wine or wheat bran, the consumption of olive oil, but also physical exercise. A brief insight will be given how these interventions target a cell.

Stefano Giaimo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology): Defining Aging in Evolutionary Biology
I discuss the concept of aging in evolutionary biology. In particular, I examine conceptually and, partially, historically both demographic and non-demographic notions of aging. Demographic notions are based on the trajectories of survival and fecundity, i.e. the two basic fitness components, over age. These notions capture population-level properties and some are at the basis of the classic theories of aging evolution. However, demographic notions might not always be illuminating with respect to individual ageing and they may disagree or be silent as to whether aging is present or not in a population. Non-demographic notions focus on the ability to sustain some particular biological performance or trait over age. While this may be a good proxy in many practical situations and for understanding individual aging, I suggest that these notions could sometimes be faulty and that not just any biological performance or trait is well suited for studying aging.

Günter Lepperdinger (University of Salzburg): Longevity and Sexual Selection
Enhanced resistance against major pathologies and stress resilience are strong foundations for living up a long live. Longevity is also acknowledged comprising slow or successful aging.
Most (animal) species reproduce sexually. Interestingly longevity of one sex often exceeds that of the other, with faster senescence occurring in males more frequently. Longevity patterns include differential vulnerability to environmental hazards, distinct patterns of parental care and differential intensity of sexual selection. Across species, avoiding mating with suboptimal partners is likely to be more important for females, because females typically invest more in offspring and thus have more to lose by poor mate choice. Sexual selection is expected to favor a `live fast die young' life history pattern in males due to increased risk of extrinsic mortality associated with obtaining mates thus sacrificing longevity for reproductive opportunity. Yet, for any male, successful mating with a high-quality female may result in a considerable fitness gain for the population.
In age-structured populations, in which generations overlap, there is potential for changing longevity patterns to occur based on the differential age of mating partners. As fertility tends to increase early in life and then decline at older ages for most organisms, mating with a very young or very old individual has the potential to reduce fitness for the other mating partner and in due course the population. With increasing age, mutations may accumulate in germ cells, changing the viability, size, or other fitness-related traits of offsprings. Notably surviving to old age may however also indicate high genetic quality. Although undisputed, somatic condition declines in old age, it is thus conceivable that longevity traits may become enforced by mating with males of advanced age.

Gregor Greslehner & Maël Lemoine (CNRS & University of Bordeaux): Are Microbial Changes a Cause or an Effect of Aging?
The contribution of the microbiota to the health status of their hosts has recently received a lot of attention. Changes in the microbial composition and its potential impacts on host physiology appear to a large extent at the beginning and towards the end of a host's life span, while being relatively stable throughout the adult life. This raises an important question: are the microbial changes cause or effect of the host's aging?
In order to answer that question, we argue that the mechanistic details of the involved phenomena and processes need to be spelled out in detail -- rather than pitting generalized causal claims in either direction against each other. By properly decomposing both the presumptive microbial causes and their purported effects on aging, causal claims can be made about microbial changes that are caused by certain processes that are part of aging, and vice versa, that certain microbial activities contribute causally to some aspect of a particular aging phenotype. Whether causality can be attributed crudely in either direction is an ill-posed question -- for many host phenotypes in general, and for aging in particular.

Organisation: Pablo García-Barranquero (Málaga) & Gregor Greslehner (Bordeaux)

Chair: Pablo García-Barranquero & Gregor Greslehner
Zeit: 16:15-20:00, 19. September 2019 (Donnerstag)
Ort: SR 1.004

Michael Breitenbach
(University of Salzburg, Austria)

Pablo García-Barranquero
(University of Málaga, Spain)

Stefano Giaimo
(Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany)

Gregor Greslehner
(CNRS & University of Bordeaux, France)

Maël Lemoine
(CNRS & University of Bordeaux, France)

Günter Lepperdinger
(University of Salzburg, Austria)

Mark Rinnerthaler
(University of Salzburg, Austria)

Cristian Saborido
(UNED, Spain)

Testability and Meaning deco