The Fourth Perspective: Evolution and Organismal Agency


18 novembre 2020

15h00 - 17h00


The CEFISES Center is pleased to announce the third session of the Life & Cognition seminar series in 2020/2021.

Our invited speaker will be Johannes Jaeger
Complexity Science Hub (CSH), Vienna, Josefstädter Straße 39, 1080 Vienna

Title: “The Fourth Perspective: Evolution and Organismal Agency"


In this chapter, I examine the deep connections between organismic organisation, agency, and evolution by natural selection. I advocate a perspectival approach to evolution, adding an agential perspective to existing structural, functional, and processual approaches. Using Griesemer’s account of the reproducer, I argue that the basic unit of evolution is not a replicator, but a complex hierarchical life cycle. Our understanding of the closure of the life cycle must be grounded on an organizational account of ontogenesis and reproduction, centered around the dynamic concept of organizational continuity. This leads to an extended and redefined set of minimal conditions for evolution by natural selection—including principles of biological multiplication, heredity, variation, and ontogenesis. More importantly, it implies that all evolvable systems are agents, or contain agents as their compo- nents. This means that we need to take organismic agency seriously if we are to ever gain a true understanding of evolution in terms of Darwin’s struggle for exis- tence. Such an understanding must rely on an agential perspective on evolution. I conclude this chapter with a brief and speculative outline of what such a perspective might look like. 


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