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Distrust That Particular Intuition: Resilient Essentialisms and Empirical Challenges in the History of Biological Individuality

Distrust That Particular Intuition: Resilient Essentialisms and Empirical Challenges in the History of Biological Individuality

Chapter:
(p.277) 11 Distrust That Particular Intuition: Resilient Essentialisms and Empirical Challenges in the History of Biological Individuality
Source:
Biological Individuality
Author(s):
James Elwick
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226446592.003.0012

There seem to be three intuitions about biological individuality that are held in western culture. This paper calls these intuitions about essences anatomical essentialism, physiological essentialism, and developmental essentialism. These intuitions reinforce one another. They work to a certain extent, and any explanation using one of the essentialisms tends to be accepted by an audience more easily. Yet when held unreflectively such intuitions lead to an impoverished understanding of individuality. These intuitions are highly resilient—histories of biology show how they have been challenged both analytically and empirically, yet they still persist to this day. I suggest this is because they both depend on and reinforce notions of purity, stability, indivisibility and autonomy.

Keywords:   biological individuality, essentialism, Darwin, intuitions, parasitism, chimerism, levels of individuality, holobiont

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