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Bodily Parts in the Structure-Function Dialectic

Bodily Parts in the Structure-Function Dialectic

(p.249) 10 Bodily Parts in the Structure-Function Dialectic
Biological Individuality
Ingo Brigandt
University of Chicago Press

Understanding the organization of an organism by individuating meaningful parts and accounting for organismal properties by studying the interaction of bodily parts is a central practice in many areas of biology. While structures are obvious bodily parts and structure and function have often been seen as antagonistic principles in the study of organismal organization, my tenet is that structures and functions are on a par. I articulate a notion of function (functions as activities), according to which functions are bodily parts just as structures are. Recognizing part-whole relations among an organism’s various structures and functions permits fruitful investigation and multilevel explanation of organismal properties and functioning, across both developmental and evolutionary time. I show how my perspective clarifies debates surrounding homology and evolutionary novelty that stem from an alleged structure-function dichotomy.

Keywords:   structure, function, activities, part-whole relations, hierarchy, individuation, biological systems, homology, evolutionary novelty

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