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Interdependence: Biology and Beyond

Interdependence: Biology and Beyond

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Interdependence: Biology and Beyond
    Book Description:

    From biology to economics to information theory, the theme of interdependence is in the air, framing our experiences of all sorts of everyday phenomena. Indeed, the network may be the ascendant metaphor of our time. Yet precisely because the language of interdependence has become so commonplace as to be almost banal, we miss some of its most surprising and far-reaching implications. In Interdependence, biologist Kriti Sharma offers a compelling alternative to the popular view that interdependence simply means independent things interacting. Sharma systematically shows how interdependence entails the mutual constitution of one thing by another-how all things come into being only in a system of dependence on others. In a step-by-step account filled with vivid examples, Sharma shows how a coherent view of interdependence can help make sense not only of a range of everyday experiences but also of the most basic functions of living cells. With particular attention to the fundamental biological problem of how cells pick up signals from their surroundings, Sharma shows that only an account which replaces the perspective of "individual cells interacting with external environments" with one centered in interdependent, recursive systems can adequately account for how life works. This book will be of interest to biologists and philosophers, to theorists of science, of systems, and of cybernetics, and to anyone curious about how life works. Clear, concise, and insightful, Interdependence: Biology and Beyond explicitly offers a coherent and practical philosophy of interdependence and will help shape what interdependence comes to mean in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6556-5
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION: Taking Interdependence Seriously
    (pp. 1-5)

    You may have heard the phrase “It’s all connected” before. What does it evenmean? Does it mean that an ice floe calving off the coast of Antarctica is about to cause the electricity to go out in your neighborhood? Does it mean that an intangible something knits together and resonates through all living and nonliving things, and we can tune into its hum? Does it point to the global economy and the vast network of actors and factors upon which each of our lives and personal fortunes depend? Does it refer to deer eating grass and wolves eating deer,...

  2. 1 IT DEPENDS: Contingent Existence
    (pp. 6-19)

    Not existence, not reality, but algae: That is what I had entered graduate school in biology to study. I had wanted to research how cells organize themselves into multicellular collectives and what was necessary for the transition from solitary to multicellular life. I was enamored of a creature calledGonium dispersum,¹ a (barely) multicellular alga. The evolutionary ancestors of this genus are free-living single cells, and its evolutionary descendants are multicellular² (Figure 1.1).Gonium dispersumlives on the cusp of solitary and multicellular life. Most of the time, the alga exists as an eight-celled aggregate. However, sometimes, the cells separate...

  3. 2 WHAT DO OBJECTS DEPEND ON? Physical Substance, Matter, and the External World
    (pp. 20-40)

    In an obvious sense, this book is a real object in this world of objects that we inhabit. It is unified as one single thing with sharp boundaries and is clearly separable from a background of space. It is the same book as the book you were holding ten seconds ago. Moreover, if you needed any more convincing about its already vivid existence, you could point to it and ask anyone, “What is this?” They would likely confirm the obvious: “It’s a book.”

    I have bored you with the mundane, perhaps. Fortunately, this mundane world of boring everyday objects is...

  4. 3 WHAT DOES SENSING DEPEND ON? Transduction, Energy, and the Meeting of Worlds
    (pp. 41-69)

    As we saw in the last chapter, the notion of the intrinsic existence of objects depends upon a number of assumptions. These assumptions are at play in the standard view of what we call “the sensing of objects” and, relatedly, of what in biology is called “signal transduction.” Commonly, it is assumed that objects existintrinsicallyprior to the sensing activity of organisms, for all the reasons that have been examined before. In addition, at least two more operations occur that make this standard view of sensing seem straightforward:

    1. We assume that some things can become the organism (i....

  5. 4 WHAT DO ORGANISMS DEPEND ON? Bodies, Selves, and Internal Worlds
    (pp. 70-84)

    If objects do not exist inherently but arise dependent upon the cognitive activities of organisms, then who are these organisms? Who is it that is doing this work of aggregating and distinguishing and inferring? Who is it that relates to “what is” as objects and substances? If objects do not exist inherently, then one might assume that the organisms upon whom these objects depend must themselves exist inherently, for it is only they who can do the cognitive work necessary for objects to be experienced as objects.

    In this chapter, I outline four common assumptions—commonsense beliefs or acquired anxieties...

  6. 5 WHAT DOES ORDER DEPEND ON? Patterns, Gaps, and the Known World
    (pp. 85-98)

    The real world is contrasted to illusions, mirages, or dreams by emphasizing that the real world is governed by laws, whereas in illusions, mirages, and dreams, anything goes. As I have emphasized throughout, contingentism coherently describes “the lawfulness of the universe” as “regular arisings.” Regularities themselves are, of course, the product of cognitive acts that separate phenomena into objects and relate these objects into patterns. Contingentism describes how order arises without locating that order exclusively in an external world or describing it as inhering in or being an intrinsic property of an external world. In this chapter, I further illustrate...

  7. CONCLUSION: Life as We Know It
    (pp. 99-106)

    This book thus far has been a reckoning with many absences:

    the absence of referents independent of terms,

    the absence of objects independent of perceptions,

    the absence of essences within things,

    the absence of causal powers between regularities,

    the absence of subjects independent of experiences and actions,

    the absence of laws independent of concepts and cognitive consonances, and

    the absence of gaps between subjects and reality independent of the experience of such.

    There is also the absence of absence itself, insofar as “absence” is itself aterm, which brings us full circle back to the absence of referents independent of...

  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: What Does This Book Depend On?
    (pp. 129-131)