Montévil M. & Mossio M. (2015) Biological organisation as closure of constraints. Journal of Theoretical Biology 372: 179–191. https://cepa.info/3629
Biological organisation as closure of constraints.
Journal of Theoretical Biology 372: 179–191.
Fulltext at https://cepa.info/3629
We propose a conceptual and formal characterisation of biological organisation as a closure of constraints. We first establish a distinction between two causal regimes at work in biological systems: processes, which refer to the whole set of changes occurring in non-equilibrium open thermodynamic conditions, and constraints, those entities which, while acting upon the processes, exhibit some form of conservation (symmetry) at the relevant time scales. We then argue that, in biological systems, constraints realise closure, i.e. mutual dependence such that they both depend on and contribute to maintaining each other. With this characterisation in hand, we discuss how organisational closure can provide an operational tool for marking the boundaries between interacting biological systems. We conclude by focusing on the original conception of the relationship between stability and variation which emerges from this framework. – Highlights:Biological systems realise both organisational closure and thermodynamic openness, Organisational closure is a closure of constraints, Constraints exhibit conservation (symmetry) at the relevant time scales, Closure draws the boundaries between interacting biological systems, Closure is a principle of biological stabilisation.