Identity in interaction: Ontological and normative aspects of biological, cognitive and social individuality (INTERIDENTITY)

Period: February 2016 – January 2020

Source of funding: Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness (MINECO), Plan Nacional I+D+i

Project reference: FFI2014-52173-P

Partners: Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU (Spain), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain), Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain).

Principal investigators: Miren Arantzazu Etxeberria Agiriano (Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU) and Kepa Ruiz Mirazo (Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU).

Responsible at CNSC: Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol (mfernandezar (at) uoc (dot) edu). Researchers: Antonio Calleja-López (acallejalo (at) uoc (dot) edu); Arnau Monterde (amonterde (at) uoc (dot) edu).

Description: This research Project intends to review the concepts of identity and individuality through a methodology that combines the descriptive approach of methodological naturalism with the normative evaluation of the epistemic and practical consequences. The aim is to question the essentialist framework starting from a detailed study of how entities in the biological, cognitive and social domain are generated and transformed. This project continues the previous work of the group, by expanding our line of research, which highlights biological organization, the sciences of complexity, the enactive approach in cognitive science and autonomy and the narrative perspective in bioethics. On the one hand, the task is to develop a descriptive and naturalist account of the ontological dimension, and on the other, to enable a normative evaluation of the adaptive, cognitive, ethical, ecological and educational consequences of the naturalized concepts.

The received concepts of identity and individuality have been criticised for not questioning the individualistic and particulate assumptions permeating research on living beings and their mental and social capacities. Naturalist descriptions of the organization of relevant entities make evident that there are two important challenges to the received concepts: 1) the massive interconnectivity makes it very difficult to establish which are the “primitive” entities or the starting point; 2) the heterogeneity of constituents shows that the conjunction of entities forms complex organizations instead of collections or populations of homogeneous elements.

We anticipate that new models and accounts are required for cases such as: metabolic interactions originating the first cells, lateral genetic transference, the formation of multicellular organisms, participatory sense-making, social interaction as a source of the autonomy of patients (in the case of somatic disease, incapacity or mental disorder), technologically mediated interactions in social networks. Thus, we will study more specifically the following examples of integrated heterogeneity in

Thus, we will study more specifically the following examples of integrated heterogeneity in organized entities (via interaction): models of origin of life with different primitives (molecules, connected protometabolisms or sets of proto-cellular systems), the role of integrative mechanisms in evolution (for example, symbiosis), levels of organization in different evolutionary transitions, the multiplicity of social and embodied aspects of subjective identity, the role of narrative identity for generating autonomy with others. The normative side of the project, linked to the naturalist one, aims to study how social, ethical, educative, ecological etc. values influence conceptualizations of individuality as well as to consider the normative consequences stemming from it.

In sum, we present an ambitious project, which is completely coherent with previous work of the group, and in accordance to the competencies of the research team.


Image by LivBelko under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license