Individuals

Philosophers of biology typically understand biological individuals to be distinct from other kinds of entities in the biosciences, such as properties, processes, and events (though see Dupré 2012, Nicholson 2018, Nicholson & Dupré 2018). Biological individuals have three-dimensional spatial boundaries, endure for some period of time, are composed of physical matter, bear properties, and participate in processes and events. Biological processes and biological events lack such a suite of features. Although philosophers have explored the question of what makes anything an individual ofany kind (e.g., Strawson 1959; van Inwagen 1990; Chauvier 2016; French 2014, 2016; Lowe 2016; Wiggins 2016), such questions are bracketed off here in order to concentrate on biologicalindividuals (cf. Love & Brigandt 2017).

Consider again the Hawaiian bobtail squid plus its colony of Vibrio fischeri bacteria that Godfrey-Smith discusses as such an example . Those who view this entity as an organism do so because of the intricate integration between squid and bacteria (Nyholm & McFall-Ngai 2004; Bouchard 2010).

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Section 3indicated that John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry drew explicitly on the concept of living organisms in characterizing the chief theme of their influential work on the major transitions in the history of life. However, reflection on organisms as living agents generally has been backgrounded in work concentrating on evolutionary https://turbo-tax.org/. This is perhaps for the obvious reason that many evolutionary individuals—including genes, lineages, and clades—are not themselves living things. Yet physiological individuals are paradigms of living agents and a more complete sense of the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy calls for some discussion of life, including the roles that an appeal to life cycles and agency play in characterizing physiological individuals. The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals.

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In other colonial organisms the individuals may be closely related to one another but differ as a result of sexual reproduction. With the rise of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard rejected Hegel’s notion of the individual as subordinated to the forces of history. Instead, he elevated the individual’s subjectivity and capacity to choose their own fate. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, examines the individual’s need to define his/her own self and circumstances in his concept of the will to power and the heroic ideal of the Übermensch. The individual is also central to Sartre’s philosophy, which emphasizes individual authenticity, responsibility, and free will. In both Sartre and Nietzsche , the individual is called upon to create their own values, rather than rely on external, socially imposed codes of morality.

The over-representation of the poor of all ages among switchers may thus reflect a higher tendency to move among sick individuals. When such proud and independently-minded individuals are in dispute, friendship is often the first casualty.

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Individuals

The biological world contains an incredibly diverse variety of individuals. At the ground level of common sense, there are alligators, ants, beetles, marmots, moles, mushrooms, ostriches, roses, trees, and whales.

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There are challenges in how to delineate individual holobionts that, as we will see in the next section, may be met by embracing particular physiological criteria for individuation . Yet those challenges have suggested to some that the take-away lesson from reflection on holobionts is that emphasis should be placed not on another kind of individual, a holobiont, but instead on the process ofholobiosis (Doolittle & Booth 2017). It remains too early to tell whether the concept of the holobiont will live up to its still-early promise of revolutionizing thinking about biological individuals; this will likely be an area of emerging and exciting work for the next several years. Here organisms or biological individuals are viewed as exemplars of complex living things composed of many parts, and their complexity is taken to have increased—albeit unevenly and contingently—through evolution by natural selection.

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Meanwhile it seems clear that all of these biological individuals, however much or little they reproduce, still possess a life cycle. Note that even the capacity to reproduce is not a universal feature of life cycles. This is not only because the capacity itself may not be replicated, but also because there are biological individuals designed by natural selection to be non-reproductive, with sterile castes in eusocial insects being perhaps the best-known example. This shift from replication to the process of reproduction in accounts of biological individuals has a longer history, particularly amongst those sensitive to the relationships between evolution and development.

Although the “evolution of sociality” has been taken up by animal biologists and evolutionary anthropologists (where it is often viewed game-theoretically), this has served to reinforce a view of sociality that seems somewhat narrow, e.g., the view is not clearly applicable to structurally simpler individuals. Perhaps the idea that sociality is not a relatively recent addition to multicellular life needs to be taken seriously. Instead, sociality may be a more sweeping feature of many if not all biological individuals, with the evolution of individuality understood in tandem with the idea of changing, shared, public and club goods. This would make for a more dynamic and cyclical view of the history of life than has been assumed in past thinking about biological individuals.

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