From biology to economics to information theory, the theme of interdependence is in the air, framing our experiences of all sorts of everyday phenomena. Indeed, the network may be the ascendant metaphor of our time. Yet precisely because the language of interdependence has become so commonplace as to be almost banal, we miss some of its most surprising and far-reaching implications.
In Interdependence, biologist Kriti Sharma offers a compelling alternative to the popular view that interdependence simply means independent things interacting. Sharma systematically shows how interdependence entails the mutual constitution of one thing by anotherhow all things come into being only in a system of dependence on others.
In a step-by-step account filled with vivid examples, Sharma shows how a coherent view of interdependence can help make sense not only of a range of everyday experiences but also of the most basic functions of living cells. With particular attention to the fundamental biological problem of how cells pick up signals from their surroundings, Sharma shows that only an account which replaces the perspective of “individual cells interacting with external environments” with one centered in interdependent, recursive systems can adequately account for how life works.
This book will be of interest to biologists and philosophers, to theorists of science, of systems, and of cybernetics, and to anyone curious about how life works. Clear, concise, and insightful, Interdependence: Biology and Beyond explicitly offers a coherent and practical philosophy of interdependence and will help shape what interdependence comes to mean in the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Kriti Sharma, a microbiologist, is completing her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Introduction - Taking Interdependence Seriously
A brief sketch of what's to come
Chapter 1 - It Depends: Existence as Contingent
Introducing key concepts: reality, existence, and contingency
Features of contingentism
What contingentism is not
Signal transduction and the book's organization
Encouragement to stick with a challenging topic
Chapter 2 - What Do Objects Depend On?: Physical Substance, Matter, and the External World
Assumption of the intrinsic boundedness and continuity of objects
Assumption of the intrinsic boundedness and continuity of particles
Assumption of the intrinsic existence of (emergent) properties
Assumption of the intrinsic existence of causal powers
Assumption of the unified object of sense perceptions (both within and between observers)
Assumption of non-impingement: "Whatever it is, it sure doesn't depend on us"
Chapter 3 - What Does Sensing Depend On?: Transduction, Energy, and the Meeting of Worlds
An overview of signal transduction
Signal transduction and cell sensing
Assumption of sameness and difference
Assumption of energy as a kind of substance
Relating physical and psychological phenomena
Re-viewing sensing: new views of transformation and change
Chapter 4 - What Do Organisms Depend On?: Bodies, Lives, Selves, and Internal Worlds
Assumption of the boundedness and continuity of organisms
Assumption of the coordinator and the experiencer
Assumption of intrinsically existent "other minds": why do we take one another seriously as subjects?
Assumption of a ground: physicalism, idealism, dualism, and contingentism
What does your life depend on?
Chapter 5 - What Does Order Depend On?: Patterns, Gaps, and the Known World
On cognitive patterns and cognitive dissonance: what does order depend on?
Assumption of the intrinsic existence of contradictions: what does surprise depend on?
Assumption of intrinsic hierarchies of order: what makes a good theory?
Assumption of a single origin and a linear history
Assumption of knowledge as limited: exactly where are the gaps between organismal experience and reality?
Conclusion - Life As We Know It
"Nothing but net": thoroughgoing contingency and the absence of inherent existence
Why "contingentism"?: genealogies, relations, and intellectual kindred
The many forms that wonder takes
Coda: Small, vast worlds
Acknowledgments: What Does This Book Depend On?