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"Parts, Wholes, Processes, and Rates: From Rigid to Dynamic Mechanisms" Jan Baedke (University of Bochum)

Egenis Seminar

In the last ten years a number of authors of the new mechanistic philosophy have argued for conceptualizing the relations traced in causal-mechanistic explanations in the biosciences by means of the idea of compositional constitution. In other words, ‘vertical’ relations across levels of organization in mechanisms exhibit constitution and inter-level parthood. For many ‘new mechanists’ this means that changes in the causal properties of parts constitutively (not causally) make a difference in the properties of wholes. This paper show that (i) this conceptualization of inter-level relations leads to a view of ‘rigid mechanisms’. (ii) It radically contradicts those mechanistic investigations in biology seeking to understand the vertical build-up of organisms diachronically and over time, respectively. Thus, (iii) a new view of ‘dynamic mechanisms’ is presented that is able to overcome this problem by conceptualizing vertical relations in mechanisms in a more dynamic manner. It is centered not on the concepts of constitution and parthood but on causal process and rate. Investigations in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) of the origin and change of levels of organization (i.e. evolutionary novelty and evolvability) will be reviewed to support these findings.

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Byrne House