Biological Theory

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 312–325 | Cite as

The Problem of Biological Individuality

  • Ellen ClarkeEmail author


Darwin described forces of selection acting upon individuals, but there remains a great deal of controversy about the exact status and definition of a biological individual. Recently some authors have argued that the individual is dispensable—that an inability to pin it down is not problematic because little rests on it anyway. The aim of this article is to show that there is a real problem of biological individuality, and an urgent need to arbitrate among the current plethora of solutions to it.


biological individual counting definition of the organism fitness level of selection major transitions reproduction unit of selection 


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© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition ResearchAltenbergAustria

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