The problem of organismal form (i.e. the geometrical and topological properties of biological entities at the anatomic level) played a privileged role throughout the history of biology. Since the end of the 19th century, the significance of the problem of the organismal form progressively weakened until its practical disappearance. This was mainly due to the triumph of the synthetic theory of evolution and the genetic theory of development. However, since the late 1970s, morphology has experienced a renaissance in every domain of biology. This return of form has directed the interest to the history of morphology, and has drawn an increasing philosophical attention to morphological concepts such as ‘type’, ‘Bauplan’, ‘homology’ or ‘novelty’. In my presentation, I will summarize the results of my PhD thesis on the problem of organismal form. To this end, I investigated the philosophical implications of the contemporary programs of research devoted to the descriptive and causal study of the nature, generation and evolution of organismal form, taking into account the historical roots of morphological problems. Firstly, I will show that the philosophical dialectics governing the different conceptualisations of the concept of organismal form depends on the epistemological goals of the two disciplines in charge of organising morphological diversity, namely morphology and taxonomy. Secondly, I will analyse how both descriptive frameworks determine the causal theories of form, and are applied in functional biology, developmental biology and evolutionary biology.
Laura Nuño de la Rosa García graduated in Humanities at the University of Alicante, and joined the doctoral program in Philosophy of Science at Complutense University, Madrid, where she defended her DEA thesis, “Philosophical History of the Idea of Organismal Form: From Aristotelian Hylemorphism to Cellular Microanatomy”, in 2005. She subsequently studied Biophysics at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and obtained a master´s degree in Biophysics, in 2010. Her master´s thesis on “The Origin of Paired Fins,” supervised by Prof. Gerd B. Müller and Dr. Brian Metscher, was carried out in the Department of Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna. She is about to defend her PhD thesis in Philosophy of Biology, on “The Problem of Organismal Form in Contemporary Biology: a Philosophical Examination”, supervised by José Luis González Recio (UCM) and Jean Gayon (Paris 1-Sorbonne). Laura Nuño de la Rosa García received several grants, amongst them specialization grants from the Institute of Philosophy, La Habanna (Cuba), the Institut d'Histoire et de la Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris (France), and the KLI, Altenberg (Austria).