The Objectivity of Organizational Functions

Samuel Cusimano, Beckett Sterner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We critique the organizational account of biological functions by showing how its basis in the closure of constraints fails to be objective. While the account treats constraints as objective features of physical systems, the number and relationship of potential constraints are subject to potentially arbitrary redescription by investigators. For example, we show that self-maintaining systems such as candle flames can realize closure on a more thorough analysis of the case, contradicting the claim that these “simple” systems lack functional organization. This also raises problems for Moreno and Mossio’s associated theory of biological autonomy, which asserts that living beings are distinguished by their possession of a closed system of constraints that channel and regulate their metabolic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-269
Number of pages17
JournalActa Biotheoretica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Biological autonomy
  • Biological function
  • Biological individuality
  • Constraints
  • Feed forward loop
  • Network motifs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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