Article

Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 471-499

Parts and Theories in Compositional Biology

  • Rasmus Grønfeldt WintherAffiliated withInstituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán Email author 

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Abstract

I analyze the importance of parts in the style of biological theorizing that I call compositional biology. I do this by investigating various aspects, including partitioning frames and explanatory accounts, of the theoretical perspectives that fall under and are guided by compositional biology. I ground this general examination in a comparative analysis of three different disciplines with their associated compositional theoretical perspectives: comparative morphology, functional morphology, and developmental biology. I glean data for this analysis from canonical textbooks and defend the use of such texts for the philosophy of science. I end with a discussion of the importance of recognizing formal and compositional biology as two genuinely different ways of doing biology – the differences arising more from their distinct methodologies than from scientific discipline included or natural domain studied. Ultimately, developing a translation manual between the two styles would be desirable as they currently are, at times, in conflict.

Keywords

Compositional biology Developmental biology Morphology Parts Science textbook Style of theorizing Theoretical perspective