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KLI Colloquia
Pregnant Females as Historical Individuals: An Insight from the Philosophy of Evo-Devo
2021-06-24 15:00 - 2021-06-24 17:00
Organized by KLI
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Topic description / abstract:
Criticisms of the "container" model of pregnancy picturing female and embryo as separate entities multiply in various philosophical and scientific contexts during the last decades. In this talk, we examine how this model underlies received views of pregnancy in evolutionary biology, in the characterization of the transition from oviparity to viviparity in mammals and in the selectionist explanations of pregnancy as an evolutionary strategy. In contrast, recent evo-devo studies on eutherian reproduction, including the role of inflammation and new maternal cell types, gather evidence in favor of considering pregnancy as an evolved relational novelty. Our thesis is that from this perspective we can identify the emergence of a new historical individual in evolution. In evo-devo, historical units are conceptualized as evolved entities which fulfill two main criteria, their continuous persistence and their non-exchangeability. As pregnancy can be individuated in this way, we contend that pregnant females are historical individuals. We argue that historical individuality differs from, and coexists with, other views of biological individuality as applied to pregnancy (the physiological, the evolutionary and the ecological one), but brings forward an important new insight which might help dissolve misguided conceptions.
Biographical notes:

Laura Nuño de la Rosa is a philosopher of biology working on the history and philosophy of developmental biology and evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). Graduated in Humanities, in 2010 she obtained a Master’s Degree in Biophysics at the Autonomous University of Madrid. In 2012 she obtained a PhD on the problem of organismal form in contemporary biology, at the Complutense University of Madrid and the Paris 1-Sorbonne University. She further joined the KLI Institute (Kloserneuburg, Austria) as a post-doc fellow. Between 2015 and 2018, she held a Juan de l a Cierva fellowship at the IAS-Research group, at the University of the Basque Country. In 2018 she j oined the Department of Logic and Theoretical Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid, first as a UCM postdoc fellow, and since April 2019 as a Juan de l a Cierva-Incorporación fellow. Her current interests combine research on the recent history of evolutionary biology with the study of epistemological and ontological issues in contemporary biology, as well as the social implications of biosciences, including synthetic biology, theories of reproduction, and current science of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mihaela Pavlicev is evolutionary biologist with a wide range of interests. After finishing her PhD in Ecology in Vienna, 2003, she joined Natural History Museum in Vienna to work on molecular phylogenetics in reptiles and birds. This was followed by postdoctoral work in evolutionary quantitative genetics (in St. Louis and Oslo), and a senior postdoctoral fellowship at KLI, before taking a faculty position at the University of Cincinnati Medical School/ Cincinnati Children`s Hospital in Ohio in 2013. Since December 2019, she is professor for Theoretical Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Vienna.

Mihaela`s early work focused on the influence of the structure of genotype-phenotype map on the traits’ evolvability, and addressed the evolution of this map. Two aspects of the genotype-phenotype map, which is essentially an abstraction of developmental/physiological genetic structure, are of particular interest: the context dependency of gene effects and the impact of pleiotropic genes affecting multiple traits. Later, she started applying the principles from the trait evolution and context-dependency to the cell-level, and broader systems, particularly reproduction.
Arantza Etxeberria Agiriano is Associate Professor at the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU. AE graduated in Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid (1985), obtained a PhD in Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU (1992) with a thesis on understanding cognition on its biological grounding and connectionist networks, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sussex (1992-1994). In recent years she has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Philosophy of science, Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy, Science and Society. She is a researcher at IAS Research Centre on Life, Mind and Society at the University of the Basque Country since its beginning. Recently she was the co-PI on a Project on Inter-identities: Ontological and normative aspects of biological, cognitive and social individuality, and is co-editing a special issue of Frontiers in Psychology on the topic. She has recently written articles on conceptualizations of biological reproduction and pregnancy, on relational accounts organisms and environments, and on the work on these topics of philosopher George Canguilhem. Her main research interests are on individuality and autonomy in biology and medicine, biological organization and its evolution from the perspective of evodevo, and classifications in science and society.