C4 hosts several working groups and workshops per year. Working groups are usually closed (invited participants only). Workshops are sometimes open to the university community. If you would like more information about an upcoming event, please send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention C4. Events are listed below.
Working Group: What is an Individual?
December 14-16, 2012
Lynn Nyhart (History of Science, Madison)
Scott Gilbert (Biology, Swarthmore)
Partial funding for this meeting comes from a subaward to University of Wisconsin, Madison from the Santa Fe Institute under a grant from the John Templeton Foundation for the study of complexity. The Madison PI and COI on this grant are David Krakauer and Jessica Flack.
Workshop Background & Objectives
The goal of the workshop and edited volume intended as its outcome is to mount a multi-disciplinary attack on the problem of individuality, bringing together historians, philosophers, and biologists with the aim of producing a synthetic, multifaceted understanding of this topic.
Collectively, we aim 1) to identify the leading conceptualizations of biological individuality, what they are good for, and under what circumstances, at levels of organization ranging from genetic to organismal to societal; 2) to identify the many criteria for biological individuation, their assumptions, the knowledge domains in which they are (most to least) applicable, and the consequences of applying different criteria at different levels of organization; 3) to use multiple methods and to purposefully draw on multiple disciplinary traditions – historical, social, philosophical, and biological – that actually circumscribe the empirical research problems, the underlying reasoning, and both the scientific and the popular understanding of biological individuality; and 4) to collectively produce a better articulated and more powerful set of concepts surrounding biological part-whole relations.
Few problems are more foundational than the nature of part-whole relations in biology, yet we lack a synoptic perspective on the problem. Through this volume, we seek to establish “the problem of biological individuality,” as we shall call it, as a major interdisciplinary research area that will have a significant place in the history and social studies of biology, the philosophy of biology, and biology itself. By putting members of these different communities into a common project, we will provide a structure for sorting out the many tangled conceptualizations, assumptions, criteria, and uses of biological individuality, and shape an understanding that will benefit all. In this way, we hope to offer a model of interdisciplinary knowledge production that is transferable to other scientific problems.