KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

James DiFrisco
KLI Colloquia
Kinds of Biological Individuals: Selection and Projectibility
2016-06-14 16:30 - 2016-06-14 16:30
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
This talk examines the problem of biological individuality through the lens of natural kinds. Biology utilizes a variety of kinds of individuals, including historical, functional, structural, developmental, physiological, and ecological kinds. In many cases these kinds issue in non-overlapping demarcations of biological systems and/or assign them to different hierarchical levels. For example, from physiological and developmental perspectives a worker bee is an individual organism, whereas from an evolutionary perspective it may be a part of a superorganism analogous to an organ. I propose one way of evaluating such rival perspectives, which is to assess the capacity of their associated kinds to support true inductive inferences. On this basis, I argue that the functional kind ‘object of selection,’ which is central to evolutionary accounts of individuality, is inferentially weak compared to other kinds, in addition to being operationally parasitic on non-functional biological kinds. These weaknesses can be traced to more general limitations of functionally defined kinds in the sciences.


Biographical note:
James received his PhD in Philosophy from University of Leuven, Belgium, with a dissertation entitled "Process and Levels of Organization: A Dynamic Ontology for the Life Sciences." His research focuses on problems related to biological organization, functions, individuality, and levels, as well as on a variety of themes in naturalistic metaphysics including physicalism and the relations between scientific domains.