The Constitution Of Individuals and Groups in Biological Sciences

Deborah Gordon, Department of Biology, Stanford University
Thomas Pradeu, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux

Recent biological and biomedical research, especially work on the microbiome, has revived the idea that living things are not “individuals”, but rather collectives. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to offer a philosophical and scientific examination of the conditions under which something can be said to be an “individual” in the living world – and how, in certain circumstances, individuals function as a single collective, while collectives can function as biological individuals. Combining the perspectives of a philosopher of science who studies the immune system and the microbiome (Thomas Pradeu), and biologist who studies collective behavior in ant colonies and other natural systems (Deborah Gordon), we believe that we are able to develop an innovative approach to this question and to explore its implications in both the biological and social sciences.

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