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Functions and health at the interface of biology and technology

Functions and health at the interface of biology and technology
Functions and health at the interface of biology and technology
Synthetic biology promises to eliminate the distinction between biology and engineering by delivering a philosophically interesting new kind of entity: a biological organism that is wholly designed and constructed by humans. The possibility of such organisms raises interesting questions in three domains: the analysis of (1) biological functions, (2) engineering functions, and (3) health and disease. This paper identifies and systematically answers these questions. This does not only establish how we should think about functions and health and disease in synthetic biological organisms, but it also reveals insights that are of broader relevance: (1) aetiological accounts of biological function need to omit or reinterpret reference to natural selection. This results in complete continuity between aetiological analyses of function in engineering and philosophy; (2) considering synthetic biology prompts interesting further questions about heritability, ancestry, and biological individuals; and (3) accounts of disease as biological dysfunction do not straightforwardly map onto our intuitive health and disease judgments regarding non-human animals. In response to the latter point I examine three possible avenues, and tentatively defend one on behalf of the ‘disease as dysfunction’ theorist.
Function, Disease, HEALTH, synthetic biology
1468-0068
182-203
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63

Kingma, Elselijn (2020) Functions and health at the interface of biology and technology. Noûs, 54 (1), 182-203. (doi:10.1111/nous.12259).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Synthetic biology promises to eliminate the distinction between biology and engineering by delivering a philosophically interesting new kind of entity: a biological organism that is wholly designed and constructed by humans. The possibility of such organisms raises interesting questions in three domains: the analysis of (1) biological functions, (2) engineering functions, and (3) health and disease. This paper identifies and systematically answers these questions. This does not only establish how we should think about functions and health and disease in synthetic biological organisms, but it also reveals insights that are of broader relevance: (1) aetiological accounts of biological function need to omit or reinterpret reference to natural selection. This results in complete continuity between aetiological analyses of function in engineering and philosophy; (2) considering synthetic biology prompts interesting further questions about heritability, ancestry, and biological individuals; and (3) accounts of disease as biological dysfunction do not straightforwardly map onto our intuitive health and disease judgments regarding non-human animals. In response to the latter point I examine three possible avenues, and tentatively defend one on behalf of the ‘disease as dysfunction’ theorist.

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Kingma - NOUS - Functions Health Synthetic Biology - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 26 March 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 16 September 2018
Published date: March 2020
Keywords: Function, Disease, HEALTH, synthetic biology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 419260
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/419260
ISSN: 1468-0068
PURE UUID: c12b9055-361a-45ed-ab0d-537edaa39288

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Apr 2018 16:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 07:07

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