L’organismo in biologia


After decades of deep concentration on the molecular aspects of life, biology and biophilosophy are now returning to reflect upon the concept of organism. The present paper is devoted to evaluate the status quaestionis of the concept of organism in biology. After a brief historical survey on the term
‘organism’, the opportunity of distinguishing the concept of organism from that of living body is addressed and argued in favour. First of all, some classical study cases related to biological organismicity and individuality are recalled, to show the theoretical difficulties in dealing with them. Then, the biophilosophical background of the question is analysed, with particular reference to proposals advanced by Sober, Mahner and Bunge, Hoffman and Rosenkrantz, and Ramellini. Finally, some future directions of investigation are proposed, both within and outside biology, while some possible conceptual positions are delineated about the relevance of the question of the organism in theoretical biology and biophilosophy.