VI. Life’s Cerebral Cognizance Becomes More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware
C. Personal Agency and Adaptive Behavior in Supportive Societies.
Bouchard, Frederic and Philippe Huneman, eds. From Groups to Individuals: Evolution and Emerging Individuality. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013. An exploration of recent realizations such as multilevel selection, major transitions scale, self-organizing microbes, that communal animal groupings of every kind contain relatively distinct, semi-autonomous entities. By this advance, a later revival of the nested superorganism concept as a reciprocity of individual and assembly is cited. Book sections are Organisms and Individuality; Adaptation and Complex Individuals; and Groups and Collectives as Individuals; with typical chapters “The Case of Division of Labor” by Andrew Hamilton and Jennifer Fewell; “Defining the Individual,” Charles Goodnight; and “Species and Organisms” by Ellen Clark and Samir Okasha. Once again an affirmation is recorded of nature’s procreative, embryonic individuation, now reaching a worldwide mindscape to reconstruct and discover itself.
Our intuitive assumption that only organisms are the real individuals in the natural world is at odds with developments in cell biology, ecology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and other fields. Although organisms have served for centuries as nature’s paradigmatic individuals, science suggests that organisms are only one of the many ways in which the natural world could be organized. When living beings work together—as in ant colonies, beehives, and bacteria-metazoan symbiosis—new collective individuals can emerge. In this book, leading scholars consider the biological and philosophical implications of the emergence of these new collective individuals from associations of living beings. The topics they consider range from metaphysical issues to biological research on natural selection, sociobiology, and symbiosis. The contributors investigate individuality and its relationship to evolution and the specific concept of organism; the tension between group evolution and individual adaptation; and the structure of collective individuals and the extent to which they can be defined by the same concept of individuality. These new perspectives on evolved individuality should trigger important revisions to both philosophical and biological conceptions of the individual. (Publisher)
Bourke, Andrew F. G. Principles of Social Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Reviewed more in Cooperative Societies, a University of East Anglia zoologist seeks to expand this field by strongly placing it within the hierarchical “major evolutionary transitions” scale of Maynard Smith and Szathmary. We also note here because a strong theme, following Leo Buss (1987), is a consequent emergence of relative individuality.
Bueno, Otavio, et al, eds. Individuation, Process, and Scientific Practices. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. This collection considers the many ways that personal identity, as a malleable quality, has been configured in scientific and philosophical studies. Chapters include Individuating Part-Whole Relations in the Biological World by Marie Kaiser, Emergent Quasiparticles by Alexandre Guay and Olivier Sartenaer and Individuality, Organisms, and Cell differentiation by Melinda Fagan.
Buss, Leo. The Evolution of Individuality. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. A prescient attempt to expand the modern evolutionary synthesis beyond an emphasis on genes and/or organisms to sequential levels of the selection of whole “individuals.”
Life is hierarchically organized because any given unit of selection, once established, can come to follow the same progression of elaboration of a yet higher organization, followed by stabilization of the novel organization. (172)
Cabell, Kenneth and Jaan Valsiner, eds. The Catalyzing Mind: Beyond Models of Causality. Berlin: Springer, 2014. Clark University and Aalborg University, Denmark editors gather to date and introduce an essay collection from environmental to biologic, psychological and cultures to advance the importance of personal self-making (autopoietic, semiopoietic), catalytic agencies are in life’s quickening emergence. Select chapters include Systematic Systemics: Causality, Catalysis, and Developmental Cybernetics as an Introduction by the editors, Catalysis and Morphogenesis: The Context Semiotic Configuration of Form, Function and Fields of Experience Picione, Raffaele and Maria Freda. Breaking the Arrows of Causality: The Idea of Catalysis in the Making by Jaan Valsiner, and Semiotic Scaffolding: A Biosemiotic Link between Sema and Soma by Jesper Hoffmeyer, see Abstracts below.
Theoretical models of catalysis have proven to bring with them major breakthroughs in chemistry and biology, from the 1830s onward. It can be argued that the scientific status of chemistry has become established through the move from causal to catalytic models. Likewise, the central explanatory role of cyclical models in biology has made it possible to move from the idea of genetic determination to that of epigenetic negotiation as the core of biological theory. Basic history of the idea of catalysis is outlined in this chapter, and the need to overcome the use of simple cause–effect notions in psychology is recommended. (Valsiner)
calcott, Brett and Kim Sterelny, ed. The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011. Reviewed more in A Quickening Evolution, wherein several contributors observe a central, regnant trajectory of Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality.
Cisek, Paul. Evolution of Behavioral Control from Chordates to Primates. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. December, 2021. In this special issue about rooting brain studies within life’s long oriented developmental stirrings from whence they arose, a University of Montreal neuro-researcher provides a comprehensive reconstruction from invertebrates to our emergent homo and anthropo (236 references) sapiens. All told, this paper, and the whole content, ought to be appreciated as an historic understanding of how our own cerebral and cognitive acumen naturally came to be. In regard, a full page graphic shows some 22 continuous stages from sponges and jellyfish to reptiles, birds, mammals to ourselves which complexifies, learns and quickens, and learns from earliest stirrings all the Metazoan way to such a global retrospective.
This article outlines a sequence of evolutionary innovations along the lineage that produced humans by which an extended behavioural control from simple feedback loops to diverse species-typical actions occurred. I begin with response mechanisms of ancient mobile animals and follow the major niche transitions from aquatic to terrestrial mammals, onto nocturnality, arboreal life and to diurnality. Along the way, I propose an elaboration and diversification of behavioural repertoires and their neuroanatomical substrates. (Abstract excerpt)
Clarke, Ellen. A Levels-of-Selection Approach to Evolutionary Individuality. Biology & Philosophy. Online October, 2016. An All Souls College, Oxford University philosopher of biology continues her endeavors to show how natural selection acting at different hierarchical levels can lead to and trace a regnant personal identity within relative communal groupings.
What changes when an evolutionary transition in individuality takes place? Many different answers have been given, in respect of different cases of actual transition, but some have suggested a general answer: that a major transition is a change in the extent to which selection acts at one hierarchical level rather than another. The current paper evaluates some different ways to develop this general answer as a way to characterise the property ‘evolutionary individuality’; and offers a justification of the option taken in Clarke (J Philos 110(8):413–435, 2013)—to define evolutionary individuality in terms of an object’s capacity to undergo selection at its own level. In addition, I suggest a method by which the property can be measured and argue that a problem which is often considered to be fatal to that method—the problem of ‘cross-level by-products’—can be avoided. (Abstract)
Collier, John. Self-organization, Individuation and Identity. Revue Internationale de Philosophie. Vol. 29/No. 228, 2004. In an issue on complex systems (most articles in French, check journal website), the University of Natal systems scientist first clarifies how ‘selves’ organize and emerge from interacting agents whom are guided by information and infused with energy. This creation of autonomous entities is then seen to have an affinity with self-referential autopoietic systems, which has previously been subject to discussion.
I will…discuss how these requirements entail that self-organizing systems are both self-producing and self-maintaining in a clear and important sense: the very process of self-organization implies individuation of the entity formed. (152) Self-organization occurs when the properties of a system allow it to take on a more ordered state through the dissipation of energy (production of entropy), some of which goes into the newly formed structure. (152)
De Monte, Silvia and Paul Rainey. Nascent Multicellular Life and the Emergence of Individuality. Journal of Biosciences. 39/2, 2014. Institut de Biologie de l’École Normale Supérieure, Paris and Massey University, Auckland, evolutionary biologists consider one more way that life’s integral complexity could arise from a genetic insistence to form beneficial collectives.
Feinberg, Todd. Altered Egos. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. The brain is arranged in the same nested hierarchy as all biological systems. From this structure emerges the unified self.
Ferner, Adam and Thomas Pradeu. Ontologies of Living Beings. Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology. Volume 9, 2017. An introduction to a special collection of this University of Michigan online journal about a deep evolutionary trend toward life’s emergent individuation. Amongst its entries are Evolution of Individuality: A Case Study in the Volvocine Green Algae by Erik Hanschen, et al with Richard Michod (abstract below), Large-Scale Modeling in Systems Biology by Fridolin Gross and Sara Green (search), and Modularity, Parthood and Evolvability in Metabolic Engineering by Catherine Kendig and Todd Eckdahl.
While numerous criteria have been proposed in definitions of biological individuality, it is not clear whether these criteria reflect the evolutionary processes that underlie transitions in individuality. We consider the evolution of individuality during the transition from unicellular to multicellular life. We assume that “individuality” (however it is defined) has changed in the volvocine green algae lineage during the transition from single cells, to simple multicellular colonies with four to one hundred cells, to more complex multicellular organisms with thousands of diﬀerentiated cells. We map traits associated with the various proposed individuality criteria onto volvocine algae species thought to be similar to ancestral forms arising during this transition in individuality. We find that the fulfillment of some criteria, such as genetic homogeneity and genetic uniqueness, do not change across species, while traits underpinning other aspects of individuality, including degrees of integration, group-level fitness and adaptation, and group indivisibility, change dramatically. We observe that diﬀerent kinds of individuals likely exist at diﬀerent levels of organization (cell and group) in the same species of algae. Future research should focus on the causes and consequences of variation in individuality. (Hanschen Abstract)