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  1. Historicity and theory

    This Diverse Format Session will discuss some biological principles and notions that, we submit, should be integrated into the theoretical concepts of biology. Overall, these notions delineate an organism-centered biological science, by shifting the focus to the wholes rather than their parts. In particular, the session will examine how the adoption of these principles and notions fundamentally challenges the received view on biological explanation. The first notion is purposiveness. There is recent literature suggesting that biological organization can be interpreted as self-determining, and thereby intrinsically purposive (Mossio & Bich, 2017). Accepting the intrinsic purposiveness notion implies accepting a circular determination between the parts and the whole and thus a challenge to a mechanistic explanation of biological organization. The second notion is variation. In some recent studies (Montévil et al., 2016), biological variation is understood in terms of the emergence of changes that cannot be prestated. As such, biological variation challenges the very possibility of generalized formal models in biology. The third notion (Soto et al, 2016), is the biological default state according to which cells constantly grow, change shape, proliferate, and move. Because of this default state, the explanation of biological phenomena involving motility and proliferation is reversed, to the extent that what is to be accounted for is their absence (quiescence). The fourth notion is agency, which designates the capacity of organisms to behave in interaction with the environment and other organisms in a purposeful, normative, and functional way. Among other things, the conception of organisms as agents radically modifies evolutionary explanations (Jäger, 2023), insofar as agents are not only the result of selective processes, but they also actively shape selective processes. The session will consist of four short presentations (15 minutes each, maximum), followed by a discussion of 30 minutes at least, in which we will explore the capacity of these concepts to advance biological explanation, as well as their (deep) conceptual connections.

  2. Biology lies at an epistemological interface

    • M Montévil
    • en
    • Sustainable interfaces for complex systems analysis and understanding – spacetime in the living systems and their integral development
    • Campus Bio-Medico, University of Rome, Rome, Italie.

  3. De la théorie des jeux au jeu du vivant

    La théorie des jeux de Von Neumann propose une vision cybernétique et panoptique des différentes typologies de jeux dans le contexte géopolitique de la guerre froide. Cette approche mathématique qui a montré son efficacité aux débuts de l’informatique nous projette dans un contexte pourtant très différent de notre situation contemporaine dominé par l’approche statistique du monde. Comment à la fois « se jouer » de cette tendance statistique et dépasser le cadre réducteur de la théorie des jeux ? N’est-ce pas ce que fait le vivant lui-même ? Cette session ouvrira à la question du « jeu » du vivant et comment il peut inspirer de nouveau modèle de jeu.

  4. Architectonique théorique en biologie et applications

    Si la physique, notamment la mécanique classique, a largement été mobilisée comme modèle de la compréhension théorique de la nature, la biologie a dans une certaine mesure, réussi à s'en détacher avec la théorie de l'évolution, une théorie où l'historicité est première. Néanmoins, cette innovation épistémologique et méthodologique n'est pas miscible avec la méthode de théorisation physique et il s'ensuit une étrange cohabitation dont les enjeux sont rarement traités. Nous proposerons des directions pour repenser la théorisation en biologie en insistant sur le concept de nouveau possible. Nous montrerons aussi que ce travail permet de mieux comprendre des phénomènes biologiques cruciaux : la disruption des organisations biologique dans l'Anthropocène.

  5. Modeling organogenesis from biological first principles

    Modeling organogenesis from biological first principles

    Organization in biology: Foundational enquiries into a scientific blindspot

    Here we discuss the application and articulation of biological principles for mathematical modeling of morphogenesis in the case of mammary ductal morphogenesis, with an emphasis on the default state.


    Unlike inert objects, organisms and their cells have the ability to initiate activity by themselves, and thus change their properties or states even in the absence of an external cause. This crucial difference led us to search for principles suitable for the study organisms. We propose that cells follow the default state of proliferation with variation and motility, a principle of biological inertia. This means that in the presence of sufficient nutrients, cells will express their default state. We also propose a principle of variation that addresses two central features of organisms, variation and historicity. To address interdependence between parts, we use a third principle, the principle of organization: more specifically, the notion of the closure of constraints. Within this theoretical framework, constraints are specific theoretical entities defined by their relative stability with respect to the processes they constrain. Constraints are mutually dependent in an organized system and act on the default state.
    Here we discuss the application and articulation of these principles for mathematical modeling of morphogenesis in a specific case, that of mammary ductal morphogenesis, with an emphasis on the default state. Our model has both a biological component, the cells, and a physical component, the matrix that contains collagen fibers. Cells are agents that move and proliferate unless constrained; they exert mechanical forces that i) act on collagen fibers and ii) on other cells. As fibers are organized, they constrain the cells’ ability to move and to proliferate. This model exhibits a circularity that can be interpreted in terms of the closure of constraints. Implementing our mathematical model shows that constraints to the default state are sufficient to explain the formation of mammary epithelial structures. Finally, the success of this modeling effort suggests a step-wise approach whereby additional constraints imposed by the tissue and the organism can be examined in silico and rigorously tested by in vitro and in vivo experiments, in accordance with the organicist perspective we embrace.

    Montévil, Maël, and Ana Soto. 2023. “Modeling Organogenesis from Biological First Principles.” In Organization in Biology: Foundational Enquiries into a Scientific Blindspot, edited by Matteo Mossio. Springer Nature
    Manuscript Citation Full text
  6. Plaine commune, contributive learning territory

    Memories for the future: Thinking with bernard stiegler

    The contributive economy is a strategy to disrupt technological disruption by developing knowledge in all its forms. This program has led to several concrete working groups in Plaine Commune.


    The program Plaine Commune, contributive learning territory, started in late 2016. It emerged from the theoretical work of Bernard Stiegler and the Ars Industrialis group. The contributive economy is a strategy to disrupt technological disruption by developing knowledge in all its forms. This program has led to several concrete working groups in Plaine Commune, while others are still developing. Mainly, work is taking place on the economy, digital urbanism, and young children’s development in the context of the overuse of digital media. Here, we focus on the group on digital media and young children’s development and how academics and inhabitant works integrate.

    Montévil, Maël. 2023. “Plaine Commune, Contributive Learning Territory.” In Memories for the Future: Thinking with Bernard Stiegler, edited by Bart Buseyne, Georgios Tsagdis, and Paul Willemarck
    Manuscript Citation Full text
  7. Normativité et infidélités du milieu : Actualités biologiques de canguilhem

    Normativité et infidélités du milieu : Actualités biologiques de canguilhem

    La philosophie et ses dehors

    Quelques remarques sur la pertinence de la philosophie de Canguilhem sur les enjeux contemporains, de la medecine par la preuve à la disruption des organisations biologiques.

    Montévil, Maël. 2023. “Normativité et Infidélités Du Milieu : Actualités Biologiques de Canguilhem.” In La Philosophie et Ses Dehors. Centre Lauragais d’Études Scientifiques
    Manuscript Citation Full text
  8. How does randomness shape the living?

    How does randomness shape the living?

    Figuring chance: Questions of theory

    In biology, randomness is a critical notion to understand variations; however this notion is typically not conceptualized precisely. Here we provide some elements in that direction.


    Physics has several concepts of randomness that build on the idea that the possibilities are pre-given. By contrast, an increasing number of theoretical biologists attempt to introduce new possibilities, that is to say, changes of possibility space – an idea already discussed by Bergson and that was not genuinely pursued scientifically until recently (except, in a sense, in systematics, i.e, the method to classify living beings).
    Then, randomness operates at the level of possibilities themselves and is the basis of the historicity of biological objects. We emphasize that this concept of randomness is not only relevant when aiming to predict the future. Instead, it shapes biological organizations and ecosystems. As an illustration, we argue that a critical issue of the Anthropocene is the disruption of the biological organizations that natural history has shaped, leading to a collapse of biological possibilities.

    Montévil, Maël. 2023. “How Does Randomness Shape the Living?” In Figuring Chance: Questions of Theory, edited by Anne Duprat and others. Routledge
    Manuscript Citation Full text

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