Could All Life Be Agential?”

2 May 2024

Could All Life Be Agential?”

In 1892, Ernst Haeckel introduced the term biopsychism to express the view that all and only living beings are sentient. For Haeckel, this position was to be distinguished both from zoopsychism, the belief that all and only animals are sentient, and his preferred panpsychism, the belief that all and only matter is sentient (Haeckel 1892: […]

Read article

The continental hydrological cycle from the perspective of the organizational theory of ecological functions

10 April 2024

The continental hydrological cycle from the perspective of the organizational theory of ecological functions

In a previous post, we discussed causal circularity in living systems using the continental hydrological cycle as an example (which can be consulted in the text “Do forests play a role in the continental hydrological cycle in tropical regions?”). We concluded that text by asking whether forests indeed play a role in maintaining the continental […]

Read article

Do forests play a role in the continental hydrological cycle in tropical regions?

20 March 2024

Do forests grow where it rains, or does it rain where forests grow? This was the title given by Antonio Nobre, a climate researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, to one of his texts on the role of the Amazon rainforest in climate regulation (Instituto Socioambiental (Brazil), 2008). Nobre often emphasizes, in his […]

Read article

Life beyond the free energy principle: how to survive without invariance

28 February 2024

Life beyond the free energy principle: how to survive without invariance

Since emerging onto the stage as ‘a theory of cortical responses’ in 2005[1], Karl Friston’s free energy principle has undergone numerous costume changes. In its most modest dress, it appears as nothing more than a tautological truism[2]: in its most eye-catching ensemble it is “an existential dyad from which everything of interest about life and […]

Read article

Life and Mind: The common tetradic structure of organism and consciousness – a phenomenological approach

31 January 2024

Life and Mind: The common tetradic structure of organism and consciousness – a phenomenological approach

The question of the holistic structure of an organism is a recurring theme in the philosophy of biology and has been increasingly discussed again in recent years.[2] Organisms have recently been described as complex systems[3] that autonomously create, maintain and reproduce themselves[4] while constantly interacting with their environment. Key focal points include their autopoiesis[5], autonomy[6], […]

Read article

Venice Summer School 2023

14 November 2023

Venice Summer School 2023

The future of evolutionary-developmental systems biology https://meetings.embo.org/event/23-evolution-venice Every two years, I co-direct a theoretical summer school on topics related to evolutionary developmental and systems biology at the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli in Venice. My current partner in crime is philosopher of science James DiFrisco. Future editions of the school will be co-organized by us and Nicole Repina. Since 2019, the […]

Read article

Operational Dialectics: Gotthard Günther’s Cybernetic Systems

31 October 2023

Operational Dialectics: Gotthard Günther’s Cybernetic Systems

Hegel did not write a philosophy of technology. However, there have been many attempts to find possible intersections between Hegelian dialectics and the philosophy of technology. Today, we should look back to Hegel’s ideas of self-reflection, the organism and causality when considering self-organizing systems. But this relationship has already been explored in the past, especially […]

Read article

The free energy principle—a precis

17 October 2023

The free energy principle—a precis

1. Introduction Here, we present the free energy principle (FEP) in a simple manner to a broad audience. Alongside other cornerstones of mathematical physics—for instance, variational principles such as the principles of stationary action or the principle of maximum entropy—the FEP serves as the basis for a new class of mechanics or mechanical theories (in […]

Read article

Rise of the Agents

3 October 2023

Rise of the Agents

If you look up the characteristics of life in any standard Biology textbook, you’ll likely find some list like this: reproduction, heredity, cellular organization, growth and development, response to stimuli, adaptation through evolution, homeostasis, and metabolism. What you won’t find is agency. The fact that living organisms can do things is arguably the most important […]

Read article

The Organism as a Subject: Hegel on Nature, Subjectivity, and Interconnectedness

19 September 2023

The Organism as a Subject: Hegel on Nature, Subjectivity, and Interconnectedness

Introduction In his thesis entitled Agency and Organisation, Rasmus Haukedal highlights the remarkable mutual relevance of recent theoretical trends in biology and the dialectical approach to (living) nature as developed by Hegel, Engels, and others (Haukedal 2022). As Haukedal explains, a dialectical approach to the phenomena of life moves beyond the logic of binary thinking […]

Read article