The fall of reductionist approaches to explanation leaves biology with an unescapablechallenge: how to decipher complex systems. This entails a number of very criticalquestions, the most basic ones being: “What do we mean by ‘complex’?” and “Whatis the system we should look for?” In complex systems, constraints belong to a higherlevel that the molecular one and their effect reduces and constrains the manifold of theaccessible internal states of the system itself. Function is related but not deterministicallyimposed by the underlying structure. It is quite unlikely that such kind of complexity couldbe grasped by current approaches focusing on a single organization scale. The naturalco-emergence of systems, parts and properties can be adopted as a hypothesis-freeconceptual framework to understand functional integration of organisms, including theirhierarchical or multilevel patterns, and including the way scientific practice proceedsin approaching such complexity. External, “driving” factors – order parameters andcontrol parameters provided by the surrounding microenvironment – are always requiredto “push” the components’ fate into well-defined developmental directions. In thenegative, we see that in pathological processes such as cancer, organizational fluidity,collapse of levels and dynamic heterogeneity make it hard to even find a level ofobservation for a stable explanandum to persist in scientific practice. Parts and thesystem both lose their properties once the system is destabilized. The mesoscopicapproach is our proposal to conceptualizing, investigating and explaining in biology.“Mesoscopic way of thinking” is increasingly popular in the epistemology of biologyand corresponds to looking for an explanation (and possibly a prediction) where “nontrivialdeterminism is maximal”: the “most microscopic” level of organization is notnecessarily the place where “the most relevant facts do happen.” A fundamentalre-thinking of the concept of causality is also due for order parameters to be carefully and correctly identified. In the biological realm, entities have relational properties only, as theydepend ontologically on the context they happen to be in. The basic idea of a relationalontology is that, in our inventory of the world, relations are somehow prior to the relata (i.e., entities).

Co-Emergence and Collapse: the Mesoscopic Approach for Conceptualizing and Investigating the Functional Integration of Organisms

Bertolaso M
2019-01-01

Abstract

The fall of reductionist approaches to explanation leaves biology with an unescapablechallenge: how to decipher complex systems. This entails a number of very criticalquestions, the most basic ones being: “What do we mean by ‘complex’?” and “Whatis the system we should look for?” In complex systems, constraints belong to a higherlevel that the molecular one and their effect reduces and constrains the manifold of theaccessible internal states of the system itself. Function is related but not deterministicallyimposed by the underlying structure. It is quite unlikely that such kind of complexity couldbe grasped by current approaches focusing on a single organization scale. The naturalco-emergence of systems, parts and properties can be adopted as a hypothesis-freeconceptual framework to understand functional integration of organisms, including theirhierarchical or multilevel patterns, and including the way scientific practice proceedsin approaching such complexity. External, “driving” factors – order parameters andcontrol parameters provided by the surrounding microenvironment – are always requiredto “push” the components’ fate into well-defined developmental directions. In thenegative, we see that in pathological processes such as cancer, organizational fluidity,collapse of levels and dynamic heterogeneity make it hard to even find a level ofobservation for a stable explanandum to persist in scientific practice. Parts and thesystem both lose their properties once the system is destabilized. The mesoscopicapproach is our proposal to conceptualizing, investigating and explaining in biology.“Mesoscopic way of thinking” is increasingly popular in the epistemology of biologyand corresponds to looking for an explanation (and possibly a prediction) where “nontrivialdeterminism is maximal”: the “most microscopic” level of organization is notnecessarily the place where “the most relevant facts do happen.” A fundamentalre-thinking of the concept of causality is also due for order parameters to be carefully and correctly identified. In the biological realm, entities have relational properties only, as theydepend ontologically on the context they happen to be in. The basic idea of a relationalontology is that, in our inventory of the world, relations are somehow prior to the relata (i.e., entities).
living dynamics; systems thinking; mesoscopic way
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12610/8899
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