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Philosophical Dimensions of Individuality

Philosophical Dimensions of Individuality

Chapter:
(p.318) 13 Philosophical Dimensions of Individuality
Source:
Biological Individuality
Author(s):
Alan C. LoveIngo Brigandt
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226446592.003.0014

While individuality has been a perennial concern because of biological examples that are difficult to categorize, contemporary discussions among philosophers of biology are dominated by individuality’s crucial role for understanding aspects of evolution. These debates include whether species are individuals or kinds, what counts as a unit of selection, and how transitions in individuality occur evolutionarily. Philosophical analyses are often conducted in terms of metaphysics (“what is an individual?”) rather than epistemology (“how can and do researchers conceptualize individuals so as to address scientific goals?”). We review conceptual distinctions in light of contributions to the volume, highlighting the way metaphysical assumptions have animated controversies, and explicitly shift attention from metaphysics to epistemology. We argue that many controversies involve epistemological differences (e.g., a diversity of legitimate scientific goals) rather than metaphysical disagreement, which implies that a pluralist stance about individuality in biology is warranted.

Keywords:   individuality, individuation, monism, parts, pluralism, wholes

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