Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 417–423 | Cite as

As nature intended

Review of J. Scott Turner (2007), The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 282 pp, Hbk £18.95/$27.95
  • Tim LewensEmail author

Bernard machines

In J. Scott Turner’s first book, The Extended Organism, he sought to persuade us that termite mounds are not merely places where termites live, they are the lungs of the termite colony.1 Generalising from this example, his goal was to demonstrate that ‘animal-built structures are properly considered organs of physiology, in principle no different from, and just as much a part of the organism as, the more conventionally defined organs such as kidneys, hearts, lungs or livers’ (Turner 2000, p. 2). The case made was a strong one, somewhat reminiscent of the case made for extended cognition in the philosophy of mind (e.g. Clark and Chalmers 1998). In terms of what termite mounds do, and how they do it, they are functionally on a par with organs internal to canonical organisms. The facts that a termite mound is external to any individual termite, and that its respiratory function is shared by many termites, are arbitrary grounds on which to deny that it is a bona-fide...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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