New Mechanistic Philosophy and the Scientific Prospects of Code Biology
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Marcello Barbieri has presented code biology as an alternative to the Peircean approach to biosemiotics. Some critics questioned the viability of code biology on grounds that Barbieri’s conception of science is limited. It has been argued that code biology’s mechanistic tendency is the cause of the allegedly limited conception of science. In this paper, I evaluate the scientific viability of the code model from the perspective of scientific realism in the philosophy of science. To be more precise, I draw on resources of the mechanistic view in philosophy (aka New Mechanistic Philosophy) to argue that far from harbouring a limited conception of science, code biology could indeed improve the scientific prospects of biosemiotics. I show that the mechanistic and model-based tendency of the code model enhances its vigour as a full-blooded scientific approach to the study of meaning in living systems. To consolidate my claim, I draw on some recent debates in the mechanistic philosophy to argue that even relational approaches to understanding the meaning in living systems—such as an approach that is defended by Vega in a recent paper—could be underpinned by mechanistic processes at a foundational level.
KeywordsCode model New mechanistic philosophy Mechanistic models Barbieri Peirce’s approach to biosemiotics Interpretation
I have to thank Marcello Barbieri and Stephen Cowley for their insightful comments. I also benefited a lot from the comments of three anonymous referees of Biosemiotics as well as the journal’s editors. All of these debts are gratefully acknowledged.
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