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“A Pluralist View of Biological Individuality” (4/28/17)

May 24, 2017

Haixin Dang

Abstract: In this paper, I focus on one family of views: the so-called monist accounts of biological individuality, which have been most prominently defended by Ellen Clarke (2013) and Peter Godfrey-Smith (2009).  These accounts of biological individuality are monist because they assume that there ought to be one unified concept of the biological individual: there is only one correct way to pick out the fundamental units of the living.  I argue that the monist view is problematic and instead defend a pluralist view of biological individuality.  I argue, first of all, that within the purportedly monist account, the kinds of mechanisms/criteria defended by Clarke and Godfrey-Smith in fact picks out more than the narrow class of entities they believe they have identified.  I then defend a pluralist view by showing that, once we think beyond the scope of population genetics, we will find that there exist many different kinds of biological individuals. 

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