Review of Biological Individuality by Pierrick Bourrat

Biological Individuality

S. Lidgard & L. K. Nyhart, eds. 2017, Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Pierrick Bourrat has reviewed Scott Lidgard and Lynn Nyhart’s book Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

I won’t rehash the review here; it’s fairly short and not behind a paywall, so anyone can read it: My overall impression is that it’s a fair review of a very disparate set of chapters from authors from completely different fields. Bourrat finds (and I don’t disagree) the chapters that attempt to integrate all these perspectives most valuable, especially that by Alan Love and Ingo Brigandt.

The opening chapter by Lidgard and Nyhart is both an historical and theoretical synthesis of the notion of biological individuality. The concluding chapter by Alan C. Love and Ingo Brigandt is a philosophical analysis of the notion. Both chapters serve as glue that binds the collection together. Without them, as well as the commentary by James Elwick (Chapter 11) and Scott Gilbert (Chapter 12), the collection would have been much less successful in reaching its aim.

I do want to set the record straight on one minor point: Bourrat seems to credit me with developing the so-called 12-step framework for understanding the evolution of volvocine development:

Herron proposes a model in 12 steps for a transition from uni- to multi- cellularity.

I didn’t develop the 12-step model; David Kirk did (Kirk DL. 2005. BioEssays 27: 299–310). My chapter is an attempt to use the volvocine algae as a test case for understanding concepts of biological individuality, and it relies heavily on Kirk’s framework.

Leave a Reply