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Hi, I'm Maël Montévil.

I am a theoretical biologist working at the crossroads of experimental biology, mathematics, and philosophy. I also work on the Anthropocene, among many other interests.

I am a researcher (Chargé de recherche) in CNRS, working in Centre Cavaillès République des Savoirs UAR 3608, École Normale Supérieure.

Key concepts: historicity, organization as closure of constraints, anti-entropy, symmetry changes, biological measurement, disruption


Events

  1. ENMI 2023 - Jeux, gestes et savoirs

    • MC Bossière
      MC Bossière
      ,
      F Cormerais
      F Cormerais
      ,
      G Longo
      G Longo
      ,
      M Montévil
      M Montévil
      &
      .
    • fr
    • Centre Pompidou, Paris

    Cette année, l’édition 2023 s’inscrit dans une réflexion autour du jeu, du geste et du savoir croisant les questions épistémologiques, économiques, de design et d’éducation. Nous mobilisons ce sujet parce qu’il nous paraît pertinent pour penser la situation actuelle de perte de motivation et de savoirs, exploités par les pouvoirs économiques et politiques, et objets d’analyse et de calculs grâce à la captation des données. L’hypothèse de cette édition envisage le jeu comme un espace de création, de capacitation pour soi et le groupe, qui permet de façon intermittente une sortie des logiques de calcul et des modèles statistiques. La conquête du marché des jeux vidéo par Roblox et la percée de ChatGPT renforce notre volonté d’apporter un éclairage théorique, historique et épistémologique au pouvoir du jeu. Nous nous intéresserons avec Winnicott à l’enfant qui joue, engage son corps, ses gestes, ses apprentissages et ses savoirs. Puis nous considérerons la place du jeu à l’âge adulte, à travers une histoire technique, biologique et industrielle, questionnant la motivation et le geste dans le numérique. Nous aborderons les jeux d’argent, la gamification et les modèles économiques associés. Enfin, nous nous intéresserons aux enjeux de design des jeux vidéo et à leur industrie. Veiller sur le potentiel créateur et libérateur du jeu et en prendre soin seront les objectifs de ces entretiens. Ils visent à renouveler la relation entre les savoirs et le monde industriel de façon créative, non consumériste et pulsionnelle, en repensant les industries culturelles et en premier lieu celle des jeux vidéo

  2. Open Historicity of Life. Theory, epistemology, practice

    • M Chollat-Namy
      M Chollat-Namy
      ,
      M Montévil
      M Montévil
      &
      A Robert
      A Robert
      .
    • en
    • Salle Dussane, ENS

    In the last decade, the notion that new possibilities appear over time in biological phenomena has received renewed and growing attention. Kauffman approaches it as the adjacent possible, Sarti and Citti as heterogenesis, and Longo and Montévil as symmetry change and specific objects. Accordingly, there is a growing understanding that this notion is a significant shift and challenge in the way to do science. However, there has yet to be a systematic effort to bring together the different perspectives on this question in biology and in other fields confronted with it. In this conference, we intend to create bridges between the different perspectives that have been developed, mostly independently, on the question of changing possibility spaces in biology.

  3. Séminaire sur le vivant 2023-2024

    • M Montévil
      M Montévil
      ,
      C Petit
      C Petit
      &
      A Robert
      A Robert
      .
    • fr
    • École Normale Supérieure

    Perpétuant les orientations impulsées par Jean-Jacques Kupiec lors de sa création, le séminaire Cavaillès se donne pour objet l'histoire et la philosophie des sciences du vivant. Une fois par mois un acteur des sciences expérimentales ou humaines est invité à y présenter ses travaux et réflexions. Le séminaire se veut ouvert à toutes et à tous, avec l'objectif de croiser les regards, partager les connaissances et favoriser les échanges sur un large spectre de thématiques et de questions. Il entend être le témoin de la vitalité, l'actualité et la fertilité des recherches en épistémologie historique des sciences biomédicales, ainsi que de leur incidence sur les débats scientifiques contemporains.

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Latest Publications

  1. Bernard Stiegler: Friendship and Fellowship

    Bernard Stiegler: Friendship and Fellowship

    On Bernard Stiegler - Philosopher of Friendship


    When I first met Bernard Stiegler, he was starting his program in Plaine Commune, a suburb of Paris that mixes misery of all kinds with young and creative vitality.

    Abstract

    "What I love, and those whom I love, you, that is to say us in so far as we are capable of forming a we, all this I love, and I love them, and I love you infinitely" (Bernard Steigler April 1952- August 2020).
    When Bernard Stiegler writes "I love you" in the quote above, he openly provokes us to question or experience the meaning or contact of these words. He also invites us to question the relationship between a thinker’s life and their thought. For Stiegler, they were inextricable. His life was one that focused on friendship but not friendships at a purely social level but ones that produced philosophy, politics, and existential truths.
    Bringing together scholars who knew Stiegler, including Shaj Mohan, Achille Mbembe, Divya Dwivedi, Peter Szendy, and Emily Apter, this volume provides an original - and personal - insight into his life and philosophy. Each piece gives a sense of the wide range of Stiegler’s work and how it affected the praxis of the philosopher in different parts of the world.

    Citation
    Montévil, Maël. 2024. “Bernard Stiegler: Friendship and Fellowship.” In On Bernard Stiegler - Philosopher of Friendship, edited by Jean-Luc Nancy. Bloomsbury. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/on-bernard-stiegler-9781350329034/
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text
  2. Indian Philosophy, Indian Revolution: On Caste and Politics

    Indian Philosophy, Indian Revolution: On Caste and Politics


    In their brave and challenging book, grounded in political science and the Continental philosophical tradition, Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan engage with the resurgence of upper-caste supremacism in India and its justification via the legacy of ‘the Aryan doctrine’ and Hindu nationalism.

    Abstract

    In their brave and challenging book, grounded in political science and the Continental philosophical tradition, Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan engage with the resurgence of upper-caste supremacism in India and its justification via the legacy of “the Aryan doctrine” and Hindu nationalism. Their essays were written from 2016 to 2023, when India’s democratic institutions were subverted and caste-based oppression overflowed into public space―killing and menacing the lower castes of all religions, minorities, women, students and the media.
    This book chronicles the ascending oppression of democracy in India, a veritable biography of authoritarianism. Dwivedi and Mohan reject simplistic accounts of India’s politics as the opposition between “Hindu majoritarian nationalism” and “the religious minorities”, or between “Hindu fundamentalism” and “religious pluralism”. They propose instead a genuinely transformative account of Indian politics, grounded in political philosophy and in the lower- caste majority position
    What does revolution mean where the constitutional promise of equality is betrayed daily by the millennia- old inequality of caste? What does politics mean where religion serves as the justification for descent- based enslavement and indignity? Revolution has only one sense in India, the annihilation of caste; and “citizen” has only one sense, the people of the state shedding caste and racism.

  3. Mathematical modeling in the study of organisms and their parts

    Mathematical modeling in the study of organisms and their parts

    Systems Biology 2nd edition


    How do mathematical models convey meaning? What is required to build a model? An introduction for biologists and philosophers.

    Abstract

    Mathematical modeling is a very powerful tool to understand natural phenomena. Such a tool carries its own assumptions and should always be used critically. In this chapter we highlight the key ingredients and steps of modeling and focus on their biological interpretation. In particular, we discuss the role of theoretical principles in writing models. We also highlight the meaning and interpretation of equations. The main aim of this chapter is to facilitate the interaction between biologists and mathematical modelers. We focus on the case of cell proliferation and motility in the context of multicellular organisms.

    Keywords: Equations, Mathematical modeling, Parameters, Proliferation, Theory

    Citation
    Montévil, Maël. 2024. “Mathematical Modeling in the Study of Organisms and Their Parts.” In Systems Biology 2nd Edition, edited by Mariano Bizzarri. Methods in Molecular Biology. https://link.springer.com/book/9781071635766
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text

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Popular Publications

  1. Biological organisation as closure of constraints

    Biological organisation as closure of constraints

    Journal of Theoretical Biology


    We characterize biological organization as a closure of constraints, where constraints are defined at a given time scale and are interdependent.

    Abstract

    We propose a conceptual and formal characterisation of biological organisation as a closure of constraints. We first establish a distinction between two causal regimes at work in biological systems: processes, which refer to the whole set of changes occurring in non-equilibrium open thermodynamic conditions; and constraints, those entities which, while acting upon the processes, exhibit some form of conservation (symmetry) at the relevant time scales. We then argue that, in biological systems, constraints realise closure, i.e. mutual dependence such that they both depend on and contribute to maintaining each other. With this characterisation in hand, we discuss how organisational closure can provide an operational tool for marking the boundaries between interacting biological systems. We conclude by focusing on the original conception of the relationship between stability and variation which emerges from this framework.

    Keywords: Biological organisation, Closure, Constraints, Symmetries, Time scales

    Citation
    Montévil, Maël, and Matteo Mossio. 2015. “Biological Organisation as Closure of Constraints.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 372 (May): 179–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2015.02.029
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text
  2. Mathematical modeling in the study of organisms and their parts

    Mathematical modeling in the study of organisms and their parts

    Systems Biology 2nd edition


    How do mathematical models convey meaning? What is required to build a model? An introduction for biologists and philosophers.

    Abstract

    Mathematical modeling is a very powerful tool to understand natural phenomena. Such a tool carries its own assumptions and should always be used critically. In this chapter we highlight the key ingredients and steps of modeling and focus on their biological interpretation. In particular, we discuss the role of theoretical principles in writing models. We also highlight the meaning and interpretation of equations. The main aim of this chapter is to facilitate the interaction between biologists and mathematical modelers. We focus on the case of cell proliferation and motility in the context of multicellular organisms.

    Keywords: Equations, Mathematical modeling, Parameters, Proliferation, Theory

    Citation
    Montévil, Maël. 2024. “Mathematical Modeling in the Study of Organisms and Their Parts.” In Systems Biology 2nd Edition, edited by Mariano Bizzarri. Methods in Molecular Biology. https://link.springer.com/book/9781071635766
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text
  3. No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere

    No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere

    Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference


    The evolution of life marks the end of a physics world view of law entailed dynamics. We discuss the notions of causation and of enablement.

    Abstract

    Biological evolution is a complex blend of ever changing structural stability, variability and emergence of new phe- notypes, niches, ecosystems. We wish to argue that the evo- lution of life marks the end of a physics world view of law entailed dynamics. Our considerations depend upon dis- cussing the variability of the very ”contexts of life”: the in- teractions between organisms, biological niches and ecosys- tems. These are ever changing, intrinsically indeterminate and even unprestatable: we do not know ahead of time the ”niches” which constitute the boundary conditions on selec- tion. More generally, by the mathematical unprestatability of the ”phase space” (space of possibilities), no laws of mo- tion can be formulated for evolution. We call this radical emergence, from life to life. The purpose of this paper is the integration of variation and diversity in a sound concep- tual frame and situate unpredictability at a novel theoretical level, that of the very phase space. Our argument will be carried on in close comparisons with physics and the mathematical constructions of phase spaces in that discipline. The role of (theoretical) symmetries as invariant preserving transformations will allow us to under- stand the nature of physical phase spaces and to stress the differences required for a sound biological theoretizing. In this frame, we discuss the novel notion of ”enablement”. Life lives in a web of enablement and radical emergence. This will restrict causal analyses to differential cases (a difference that causes a difference). Mutations or other causal differ- ences will allow us to stress that ”non conservation princi- ples” are at the core of evolution, in contrast to physical dynamics, largely based on conservation principles as sym- metries. Critical transitions, the main locus of symmetry changes in physics, will be discussed, and lead to ”extended criticality” as a conceptual frame for a better understanding of the living state of matter.

    Keywords: conservation properties, symmetries, biological causality

    Citation
    Longo, G., Maël Montévil, and S. Kauffman. 2012. “No Entailing Laws, but Enablement in the Evolution of the Biosphere.” In Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, GECCO’12. New York, NY, USA: GECCO’12; ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/2330784.2330946
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text

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Latest videos

  1. Inauguration Programme interdisciplinaire : fondations théoriques de la biologie


    La biologie moléculaire a donné un cadre très fécond pour l’exploration empirique du vivant, mais ses résultats ont aussi et en même temps mis à mal son cadre conceptuel. Pour dépasser ce cadre, un certain nombre d’auteurs soulignent les défis théoriques que comporte la compréhension des êtres vivants dans leur historicité et organicité. Si l’on doit comprendre les êtres vivant comme des organisations biologiques, comment ne pas se perdre dans leur complexité ? Et si leurs régularités sont les résultat d’une histoire et continuent de changer, de produire une histoire, comment les objectiver ? Ces questions sont, nous le pensons, essentielles pour répondre aux défis de ce siècle concernant la santé et la biodiversité et croisent aussi la question de l’encadrement théorique de l’usage des nouvelles technologies dans le travail scientifique. Dans ce contexte, nous inaugurons ici le programme interdisciplinaire : fondations théoriques de la biologie. Notre approche consiste à aborder les questions théoriques en s’appuyant sur la philosophie, notamment l’épistémologie ainsi que la comparaison avec les innovations mais aussi les contraintes théoriques d’autres disciplines, notamment la physique. En s’appuyant sur cette réflexivité, il s’agira à la fois de réinterpréter les pratiques existantes et de développer de nouvelles pratiques et méthodes.

  2. Qu’appelle-t-on disruption en biologie?


    Le terme de disruption est utilisé largement en biologie, mais il a été peu théorisé. Qu'est ce qui distingue les disruptions des perturbations ou du concept très générique de "disturbances" en écologie? Nous défendrons l'idée que les disruptions demandent de comprendre le vivant à la fois dans son historicité et de manière systémique. Au cours du temps, notamment évolutif, le vivant se transforme et fait apparaître des traits singuliers, qui sont fonctionnels grâce à leurs singularités. Ceci constitue ce que nous avons appelé par ailleurs l'anti-entropie. Alors le premier type de disruption est la randomisation de cette singularité, conduisant à une perte de viabilité, qu'il s'agit toutefois de définir avec précision. Il y a cependant un deuxième type de disruption. Si le premier type correspond à la perte du résultat de l'histoire constituant une organisation, le deuxième type correspond à la perte de la capacité à produire des nouveautés fonctionnelles. Dans les deux cas, les disruptions sont un aspect essentiellement qualitatif de l’Anthropocène et de ce qui atteint à la fois la biodiversité et la santé humaine.

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  1. screenshot of Philosophy World Democracy

    PWD avatar PWD

    Philosophy World Democracy


    Il ne s’agira pas d’une démocratie mondiale, car il faut que les peuples se composent et se disposent.Mais nous affirmerons une essence démocratique du monde : peuplé par tous les vivants et par tous les parlants, tout entier configuré par leurs existences et par leurs paroles.

  2. screenshot of Groupe cardano

    Cardano

    Groupe cardano


    Nous sommes un groupe de mathématiciens qui dénonçons une mathématisation du monde orientée vers le contrôle, le quantitatif et le réductionnisme plutôt que vers l’invention et la construction de compréhensions.

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