Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 797–817

Organisms or biological individuals? Combining physiological and evolutionary individuality


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-016-9551-1

Cite this article as:
Pradeu, T. Biol Philos (2016) 31: 797. doi:10.1007/s10539-016-9551-1


The definition of biological individuality is one of the most discussed topics in philosophy of biology, but current debate has focused almost exclusively on evolution-based accounts. Moreover, several participants in this debate consider the notions of a biological individual and an organism as equivalent. In this paper, I show that the debates would be considerably enriched and clarified if philosophers took into account two elements. First, physiological fields are crucial for the understanding of biological individuality. Second, the category of biological individuals should be divided into two subcategories: physiological individuals and evolutionary individuals, which suggests that the notions of organism and biological individual should not be used interchangeably. I suggest that the combination of an evolutionary and a physiological perspective will enable biologists and philosophers to supply an account of biological individuality that will be both more comprehensive and more in accordance with scientific practices.


Biological individuality Organism Physiology Immunology 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ImmunoConcEpT, UMR5164CNRS and University of BordeauxBordeauxFrance

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