International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-R520
Organized session / diverse format
Process and Metabolism

John Dupre (Universityof Exeter, United Kingdom)


Daniel Nicholson (University of Exeter, United Kingdom)
Stephan Guttinger (University of Exeter, United Kingdom)
Anne Sophie Spann (University of Exeter, United Kingdom)

This session will explore the importance and role of concepts of metabolism from the perspective of a process-centred view of living systems. After a general introduction to the Process Ontology project (Dupré), the next paper (Nicholson) will discuss the advantages and limits of reconceptualising living systems as dynamic flows of circulating matter, in contrast to the more standard conceptions of them as complex machines. The single most important feature captured by this processual perspective is metabolism. The next paper (Guttinger) will address problems in defining the boundaries of metabolic systems, with reference to the complexly intertwined metabolic interactions within microbial consortia, and the metabolic relations between organelles (e.g. mitochondria) and the environment of the eukaryotic cell. The third paper (Spann) will explore the centrality of metabolism to more general metaphysical issues, specifically the distinction between living and non-living entities, and the problems in developing a concept of diachronic identity for biological entities. This discussion will demonstrate the necessity of deploying a process ontology to address these questions in a biological context.