ENTANGLED LIFE: ORGANISM AND ENVIRONMENT IN THE BIOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

Edited by G. Barker, E. Desjardins, and T. Pearce (Springer), 2014

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This volume explores the interactions between organisms and their environments and how this “entanglement” is a fundamental aspect of all life. It brings together the work and ideas of historians, philosophers, biologists, and social scientists, uniting a range of new perspectives, methods, and frameworks for examining and understanding the ways that organisms and environments interact. The volume is organized into three main sections: historical perspectives, contested models, and emerging frameworks. The first section explores the origins of the modern idea of organism-environment interaction in the mid-nineteenth century and its development by later psychologists and anthropologists. In the second section, a variety of controversial models–from mathematical representations of evolution to model organisms in medical research–are discussed and reframed in light of recent questions about the interplay between organisms and environment. The third section investigates several new ideas that have the potential to reshape key aspects of the biological and social sciences.

Populations of organisms evolve in response to changing environments; bodies and minds depend on a wide array of circumstances for their development; cultures create complex relationships with the natural world even as they alter it irrevocably. The chapters in this volume share a commitment to unraveling the mysteries of this entangled life.

This book grew out of the first conference hosted by the Rotman Institute of Philosophy: Integrating Complexity: Environment and History.

Critical Reception of Entangled Life

Review from History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences:

"Entangled Life: Organism and Environment in the Biological and Social Sciences succeeds admirably in being true to the tradition initiated in the 1980s by scientists such as Richard Lewontin or Richard Levins, whose purpose was to offer an alternative to Neo-Darwinism–which mainly portrayed the organism as a passive recipient of environmental influences–, by reconceptualising the organism as an ‘‘active subject […] in the construction of its own environment’’ (p. 105). This volume provides us with a comprehensive but also challenging overview of the many conceptual changes that have recently emerged for examining the ways in which organisms and environments interact together. The word ‘‘entanglement’’ in the title does not refer solely to the interplay between organism and environment in the biological and social sciences but also to a kind of disciplinary entanglement that unfolds within the book. Indeed, the volume not only brings together the work of historians, philosophers, biologists, and social scientists but within the different parts of the book (and sometimes within the different chapters) their respective contributions are closely intertwined. It is a difficult task to pursue the goal of a true interdisciplinary account of living phenomena, one that often results in frustration and disappointment. But this is not the case here." - Antonine Nicoglou

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