Beyond Mechanism
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Beyond Mechanism : Putting Life Back into Biology

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Pairing scientists and philosophers together, this book is an exploration of some of the new frontiers in biology (e.g., Emergence, Complex Systems, Biosemiotics, Symbiogenesis, Organic Selection, Epigenetics, Niche Construction, Teleodynamics, etc.). The chapters in this volume challenge the mechanistic metaphysic that is implicit in the reigning neo-Darwinist paradigm, point to more inclusive modes of thinking in relation to the nature of life, and contribute to the novel synthesis that is presently "in the air."show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 484 pages
  • 157.48 x 231.14 x 40.64mm | 929.86g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739174363
  • 9780739174364
  • 2,111,589

Review quote

A wonderful volume edited by Brian Henning and Adam Scarfe...the book provides many helpful intuitions, and also arguments and explanations, towards the understanding of...life itself...The work by Brian Henning and Adam Scarfe deserves much appreciation. Biosemiotics This is a remarkable book that comes at a timely moment, both for theoretical biology and for the philosophy of biology...Beyond Mechanism not only presents a wide repertoire of arguments in defense of a more pluralistic view of evolution, but more importantly, it constitutes a piece of research into a new conceptual framework for biology...Globally speaking, the set of chapters in this book constitute an excellent, profound and very comprehensive criticism of the reductionist traditions in biology, and a fascinating exploration of new alternatives. Science & Education Suspicion about the adequacy of mechanistic views of nature has lately become increasingly audible. Contributors to this uniformly excellent body of essays not only amplify this suspicion but they also offer scientifically and intellectually sophisticated alternatives. I consider this book essential reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding biology in its relationship to other fields of scientific and philosophical inquiry. -- John F. Haught, Georgetown University This collection of papers explores some ways forward for biological science, out of its neo-Darwinian stasis and its mechanistic bonds. Perspectives brought to bear on this project herein range from ontogeny to ecology, entrained by a renewed bio-philosophy, and influenced as well by semiotics and moral considerability. The contributors include biologists and philosophers as well as a theologian. Major influences from the past are Aristotle, Kant, Lloyd Morgan and Whitehead, among more recent ones like Justus Buchler and Waddington. Anti-mechanicism is the overall organizing theme, as suggested by the phenomena of emergence and complexity, and mediated by concepts like self-organization and finality. Bacon's prohibition against final cause serving as a motivation within scientific models is finally being jettisoned. Special topics include: adaptive state space, agency, anticipation, autonomy, epigenetics, hierarchical structures, interpretation, niche construction, organic selection, performativity, process philosophy, and symbiogenesis. Structural attractors are hinted at in regard to extension outward of relevant environments. There is a bit of internal criticism, as well as a muted demurrer by an observer from the current establishment. I recommend this volume to those willing to consider some of the possibilities emerging now within biological science. -- Stanley N. Salthe, Binghamton Universityshow more

About Brian G. Henning

Brian G. Henning is an associate professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University. A Summa cum laude graduate in philosophy from Seattle University, Dr. Henning holds a M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in philosophy from Fordham University. His research includes domestic and international invited lectures, book reviews, nearly twenty articles or anthology chapters, two books, and three co-edited volumes, including Beyond Metaphysics? Explorations in Alfred North Whitehead's Late Thought, co-edited with Roland Faber and Clinton Combs (Rodopi 2010) and Being in America: Sixty Years of the Metaphysical Society, co-edited with David Kovacs (forthcoming, Rodopi). His 2005 book, The Ethics of Creativity (University of Pittsburgh), won the Findlay Book Prize from the Metaphysical Society of America. He is co-editor of the Contemporary Whitehead Studies book series through Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield. Adam C. Scarfe is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Winnipeg. His areas of research are applied ethics, philosophy of education, continental philosophy, and philosophy of biology. Scarfe is the executive director of the International Process Network, an organization dedicated to advancing process philosophy globally. He has published well over twenty-five articles and book chapters, and is the editor and a co-author of The Adventure of Education: Process Philosophers on Learning, Teaching, and Research (Rodopi Press, 2009).show more

Table of contents

Foreword: Evolution Beyond Newton, Darwin, and Entailing Law Introduction: On a "Life-Blind Spot" in Neo-Darwainism's Mechanistic Metaphysical Lens Section 1: Complexity, Systems Theory, and Emergence Chapter 1: Complex Systems Dynamics in Evolution and Emergence Processes Chapter 2: Why Emergence Matters Chapter 3: On the Incompatibility of the Neo-Darwinian Hypothesis With Systems-Theoretical Explanations of Biological Development Chapter 4: Process-First Ontology Chapter 5: Ordinal Pluralism as Metaphysics for Biology Section 2: Biosemiotics Chapter 6: Why Do We Need a Semiotic Understanding of Life? Chapter 7: The Irreducibility of Life to Mentality: Biosemiotics or Emergence? Section 3: Homeostasis, Thermodynamics, and Symbiogenesis Chapter 8: Biology's Second Law: Homeostasis, Purpose and Desire Chapter 9: "Wind at Life's Back" -Toward a Naturalistic, Whiteheadian Teleology: Symbiogenesis and the Second Law Chapter 10: Of Termites and Men: On the Ontology of Collective Individuals Section 4: The Baldwin Effect, Behavior, and Evolution Chapter 11: The Baldwin Effect in an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis Chapter 12: On the Ramifications of the Theory of Organic Selection for Environmental and Evolutionary Ethics Section 5: Autogen, Teleology, and Teleodynamics Chapter 13: Teleology Versus Mechanism in Biology: Beyond Self-Organization Chapter 14: Teleodynamics: A Neo-Naturalistic Conception of Organismic Teleology Section 6: Epigenetics Chapter 15: Epigenetics: Toward An Inclusive Concept of Evolution Chapter 16: Epigenetics, Soft Inheritance, Mechanistic Metaphysics, and Bioethics Section 7: Organism and Mechanism Chapter 17: From Organicism to Mechanism-and Half-Way Back? Chapter 18: Machines and Organisms: The Rise and Fall of a Conflict About the Contributorsshow more

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