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Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back into Biology

By: Brian G Henning(Editor), Adam C Scarfe(Editor), Stuart A Kaufman(Foreword By)

484 pages, illustrations

Lexington Books

Paperback | Mar 2015 | #219071 | ISBN-13: 9781498511223
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £31.95 $41/€36 approx
Hardback | Feb 2013 | #206456 | ISBN-13: 9780739174364
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NHBS Price: £51.95 $66/€58 approx

About this book

It has been said that new discoveries and developments in the human, social, and natural sciences hang "in the air" (Bowler, 1983; 2008) prior to their consummation. While neo-Darwinist biology has been powerfully served by its mechanistic metaphysic and a reductionist methodology in which living organisms are considered machines, many of the chapters in Beyond Mechanism place this paradigm into question.

Pairing scientists and philosophers together, Beyond Mechanism explores what might be termed "the New Frontiers" of biology, namely contemporary areas of research that appear to call an updating, a supplementation, or a relaxation of some of the main tenets of the Modern Synthesis. Such areas of investigation include: Emergence Theory, Systems Biology, Biosemiotics, Homeostasis, Symbiogenesis, Niche Construction, the Theory of Organic Selection (also known as "the Baldwin Effect"), Self-Organization and Teleodynamics, as well as Epigenetics. Most of the chapters in Beyond Mechanism offer critical reflections on the neo-Darwinist outlook and work to promote a novel synthesis that is open to a greater degree of inclusivity as well as to a more holistic orientation in the biological sciences.


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 Contributors

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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).

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