Biological Identity

June 2, 2016 - June 3, 2016
Institute of Philosophy, University of London, School of Advanced Study

Bloomsbury Room, G35, Ground Floor
Malet Street, Senate House
London WC1E 7HU
United Kingdom


  • Institute of Philosophy, University of London
  • The British Society for the Philosophy of Science
  • European Research Council


Ellen Clarke
Oxford University
John Dupré
University of Exeter
Arantza Etxeberria
University of the Basque Country
Philippe Huneman
Anne Sophie Meincke
University of Exeter
Álvaro Moreno
University of the Basque Country
Matteo Mossio
French National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
David Oderberg
University of Reading
Eric Olson
University of Sheffield
Thomas Pradeu
University of Bordeaux/CNRS
Paul Snowdon
University College London
Denis Walsh
University of Toronto


John Dupré
University of Exeter
Anne Sophie Meincke
University of Exeter

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Recent debates in metaphysics on personal identity and material constitution have seen a rise of theories which appeal to a biological understanding of identity. So-called animalists claim that the puzzles of standard psychological theories of personal identity can be avoided by the insight that we are essentially animals or organisms rather than persons and that the necessary and sufficient conditions of our identity over time therefore are purely biological in character. Moreover, it has been argued (most famously by Peter van Inwagen) that if there are any composite objects at all in the world, then these are those studied by biology. According to this view, there are no inanimate things like stones or cars, strictly speaking, as these turn out to be just collections of particles; but there are living organisms, due to a special unity making them each one rather than many.

It is time to investigate whether, and if so how, the concept of biological identity can indeed serve the functions metaphysicians attribute to it. For that purpose, the conference will aim to confront the metaphysical motives for proposing biological conceptions of identity, diachronic as well as synchronic, with the scientifically informed research on biological identity which has been carried out within the philosophy of biology but which so far has been little noticed by the metaphysics community. The conference seeks to connect these two hitherto largely separate debates so as to put future metaphysical allusions to biological identity on more solid grounds and, at the same time, to raise awareness for the metaphysical implications of the empirically founded models of biological identity developed in philosophy of biology.

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May 23, 2016, 5:00am BST

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