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Program September 2016-July 2017:

The seminar is held once a month at the University of Bordeaux (Carreire-Segalen campus, 146 rue Léo Saignat), usually on Tuesdays, from 12pm to 1pm.


September 15, 2016, from 1:30pm to 2:30pm, Salle de conférence du Service de néphrologie (CHU Bordeaux)

NB: because the room is not easy to find, we have a meeting point: 1:15pm at the entrance of the university library (BUSVS).

Peter Godfrey-Smith (City University of New York, USA & HPS, University of Sydney, Australia)

Individuality and Minimal Cognition


The paper links discussions of two topics, biological individuality and the simplest forms of mentality. I discuss several attempts to locate the boundary between metabolic activity and ‘minimal cognition.’ I then look at differences between the kinds of individuality present in unicellular life, multicellular life in general, and animals of several kinds. Nervous systems, which are clearly relevant to cognition and subjectivity, also play an important role in the kind of individuality seen in animals. The last part of the paper links the biological transitions discussed earlier to the evolutionary history of subjective experience.



October 18, 2016, 12pm-1pm, salle de conférence de l’Espace Santé

Sara Green (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Systems Biology – The Future of Medicine?

Systems biology is expected to radically shape the future of medicine. In this talk I specifically address the implications of P4 medicine (defined as personalized, predictive, preventive and participatory) that draw on models from systems biology for large-scale integration of patient-specific data. Proponents of P4 medicine argue that computational integration and analysis of “big data” will revolutionize our health care systems, in particular primary care-based disease prevention. While many ambitions remain visionary, steps to personalize medicine are already taken via personalized genomics, mobile health technologies and pilot projects. An important aim of P4 medicine is to enable disease prevention among healthy persons through detection of risk factors. I present the results of collaborative analysis combining a view from general practice (MD Henrik Vogt) with a philosophy of science perspective. We examine the current status of P4 medicine in light of historical and current challenges to predictive and preventive medicine, including overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Moreover, we ask whether it is likely that in silico integration of patient-specific data will be able to better deal such challenges and to turn risk predictions into disease-preventive actions in a wider social context. Given the lack of evidence that P4 medicine can tip the balance between benefits and harms in preventive medicine, we raise concerns about the current promotion of P4 medicine as a solution to the current challenges in public health.


November 22, 2016

François Duchesneau (Professor of Philosophy, University of Montreal, Canada)

The cell as elementary organism : how did the question historically arise?


December 6, 2016

Purificación Lopez-Garcia (Unité d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079, Université Paris-Sud)



January, 17 2017

Etienne Coutureau (Decision and Adaptation Team, Aquitaine Institute for Cognitive and Integrative Neuroscience, UMR5287)

Coutureau Etienne.jpg

February 2017

Kim Sterelny (Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University)


March 28, 2017

Carl Craver (Professor of Philosophy, Washington University in Saint Louis)


April 11, 2017

Derek Skillings (ERC IDEM, ImmunoConcEpT, CNRS & University of Bordeaux)


May 23, 2017

Leonardo Bich (ERC IDEM, ImmunoConcEpT, CNRS & University of Bordeaux)


June 2017: TBA

July 2017: TBA

September, 2017

Tim Lewens (Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)

Lewens Tim_Centered

October 2017

Samir Okasha (Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol)



Program September 2015-July 2016:

The seminar is held roughly once a month at the University of Bordeaux (Segalen campus, 146 rue Léo Saignat), from 12:30pm to 2pm. The exact location of the seminar is indicated systematically below.
The language of the seminar is usually English.
/ Le séminaire a lieu environ une fois par mois à l’Université de Bordeaux (campus Segalen, 146 rue Léo Saignat), de 12:30 à 14:00. Le lieu exact est systématiquement indiqué ci-dessous.
Organization: Thomas Pradeu & Cédric Brun
For questions, or if you want to be on our mailing list, please contact:

– September 15th, 2015: Jean-François Moreau, “De l’importance de la mobilité dans le système immunitaire : l’exemple du vieillissement”.
Commentator: Maël Lemoine (MCF en philosophie, Université de Tours)
Location: Salle de conférence du Centre de génomique fonctionnelle.
Audio file of the conference: Audio (or please contact Thomas Pradeu)

– September 30th, 2015: Alyssa Ney (Department of Philosophy, University of California Davis, USA), “The Metaphysics of Mental Disorder”.
Location: Salle 36
In this paper I discuss the metaphysics of mental disorders, in particular the relationship in which these disorders stand to physical phenomena: the brain, the body, and the larger environmental surroundings. I focus on the case of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though scientific research on PTSD has produced an impressive understanding of the disorder’s physical correlates, this progress is not adequate for settling the disorder’s metaphysical nature. And yet for PTSD (and other mental disorders) addressing this metaphysical issue is crucially important. It is important in order to find appropriate treatment options as well as for the PTSD sufferer’s struggle to better understand her own self and her relationship to the disorder. I discuss what empirical research suggests for the best metaphysical treatment of PTSD and by extension other mental disorders with similar characteristics. My aim here is partially to reorient the philosophical debate. I argue that the typical conceptual options on which philosophers generally focus for understanding the relationship of mental phenomena to physical (chemical, neurobiological) phenomena bypass what are really the most interesting questions when it comes to disorders like PTSD.
Ney Bordeaux

– October 6th, 2015: Ken Gemes (Birkbeck, University of London), “Nietzsche’s Notion of Health”.
Commentator: Andreas Bikfalvi (Directeur du Laboratoire de L’Angiogenèse et du Microenvironnement des Cancers, INSERM U1029)
Link to the video recording of the conference: Video.
Location: salle TP – Visio 2. Plan d’accès à cette salle : Plan-acces-visio-CARREIRE
Abstract: It is widely known that Nietzsche take himself to present a tremendous challenge to conventional morality.  Many of his interpreters have been exorcised in trying to make precise the nature of that challenge.  Here the attention has focused largely on the question of how his genealogical accounts of morality amount to a genuine challenge, rather than an instance of the genetic fallacy.  Less attention has been paid to Nietzsche’s claim that morality involves a kind of pathology.  This talk aims to expose some of the bases of Nietzsche’s idea  about health and how they relate to his attacks upon morality and how they connect with his own positive values.  Beyond Nietzsche scholarship this project aims to show us perspectives from which we might question are own accounts of health and values, both individual and social.

– November 10th, 2015: Thomas Polger (Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, USA & IdEx Visiting Scholar at Université Bordeaux-Montaigne), “Birds, and Bees, and Primates, Oh My! A Defense of the Sparse Theory of Multiple Realization”
Slides of the talk: Sparse Multiple Realization
Video of the talk available (contact me).
Commentator: Jan Pieter Konsman (Neuroscientist, specialist of neuroinflammation)
Location: Salle de conférence du Centre de génomique fonctionnelle
It is widely accepted among philosophers of mind and science that mental processes are multiply realized, roughly, that there are multiple neural (and perhaps non-neural) processes that underlie or realize mental processes. A consequence of the multiple realization of the mental is supposed to be that mental processes cannot be reduced to or identified with neural processes. And multiple realization of the mental is supposed to be only a special case of an abundant phenomenon that accounts for the irreducibility of non-basic sciences in general, and that thereby explains and justifies the existence of non-basic or “special” sciences. This talk examines these suppositions about multiple realization. Focusing on the case of the mental and the neural, I argue that the kind of variation in nature that can do the work of multiple realization is not an abundant phenomenon, but rather sparse. The argument begins with a theory of multiple realization, and proceeds by way of case studies regarding vision and hearing in honeybees, birds, and primates.
See original image

– December 21st, 2015: Anya Plutynski (Department of Philosophy, Washington University in Saint Louis, USA)
Cancer From a Multilevel Perspective: Tumors as Proto-organism?
Location: Salle de conférence du Centre de génomique fonctionnelle
We are used to thinking of cancer as a breakdown in function. Cancer is often defined, in fact, as a “failure” to control cell birth and death, and a disease of “disorganized” growth, due largely to mutations that affect the regulation of the cell cycle, the control of normal cell division, replication, etc.. Yet, we also know that selection can (and sometimes does) operate on more than one level of organization. This can occur both sequentially, and simultaneously.
Some traits are, as a consequence, byproducts of selection at other levels of organization. In this talk, I argue that cancer progression depends, in part, on a cooption of organismic adaptations: cell signaling pathways that play roles in wound healing, & embryogenesis (Schedin, et. al., 2006; Weinberg, 2014). In this sense, cancer progression is a byproduct of natural selection at the organismal level. However, cancer may also be described as a process of natural selection, where selection is acting at the level of individual cells, and potentially also, cell lineages or whole populations (see, e.g., Greaves, et. al., 2010; Crespi and Summers, 2005). Moreover, cancer may be described as a process of niche construction: for, stromal and carcinoma cells cooperate in service of angiogensis, invasion, and metastasis (see, e.g., Egeblad, 2010, Merlo, et. al., 2006). These capacities may be described as traits or characters of the tumor (collective) as a whole, which together contribute to the tumor’s survival. Adopting Queller and Strassman’s (2009) sense of “organismality,” where collectives are more or less “cooperative” and approach the paradigmatic “organism” as a matter of degree, then, one could thus speak of advanced tumors as proto-organisms. This talk will explore the consequences of thinking about cancer’s dynamics from a multi-level evolutionary perspective. The aim is to explore the scope and limitations of this analogy, in the spirit of Campbell (1920), Achinstein (1964), Spector, (1965), and Hesse’s (1966) arguments for the fruitful use of analogy and metaphor in science.
Anya and Lucie

– January 12th, 2016: Sven Saupe (UMR5095, IBGC, CNRS & Université de Bordeaux) & Mathieu Paoletti (UMR5095, IBGC, CNRS & Université de Bordeaux), “Self and nonself in fungi” (“Soi et non-soi chez les champignons”). The talks will be in English.
Commentator: Jonathan Visentin (UMR5164 & CHU)
Location: salle TP – Visio 2. Plan d’accès à cette salle : Plan-acces-visio-CARREIRE
Sven Mathieu Jonathan

– March 15th, 2016: Alain Blanchard (Microbiologie, UMR INRA 1332 Biologie du Fruit et Pathologie, Bordeaux), From the question “what is life?” to the building of minimal cells. (The talk will be in English).
Attention! Exceptionnellement, la séance commencera à 12h au lieu de 12h30 (The seminar will start at noon, instead of 12:30pm)
Location: salle TP – Visio 2. Plan d’accès à cette salle : Plan-acces-visio-CARREIRE
Blanchard Alain

– March 22nd, 2016: Maureen O’Malley (University of Bordeaux; previously: University of Sydney), Why Philosophy of Microbiology?

Attention! Exceptionnellement, la séance commencera à 12h au lieu de 12h30 (The seminar will start at noon, instead of 12:30pm)

  • Link to Video of this talk: Video O’Malley
  • Link to PDF Presentation of Maureen’s talk: Why Philosophy of Microbiology?
  • Short abstract: Microbes have only recently become the objects of sustained philosophical attention. I will discuss some of the reasons why philosophers now find microbes and microbiology interesting, and why philosophy of microbiology might be a worthwhile activity.
Location: salle TP – Visio 2. Plan d’accès à cette salle : Plan-acces-visio-CARREIRE

– April 5th, 2016: Lynn Chiu (post-doc ERC IDEM Project):
Host-Microbiota Symbiosis: One, Many, or Mega-Organism? Lessons from Internalism vs. Externalism debates in biology and psychology
  • Link to PDF presentation: Chiu, Host-Microbiota Symbiosis
  • Video of the talk: Video Chiu
  • Abstract: I will distinguish between three types of interactionist reactions to internalist or externalist theories. These theories assign specific theoretical roles to internal and external factors, respectively. A “balanced” interactionist balances the relative weight of internal and external factors without changing their respective roles. An “extension” interactionist reassigns the roles to both factors. A “transformative” interactionist rejects the original theoretical framework, re-organizing internal and external factors under a new alternative. Examples will be drawn from major debates in evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and cognitive science. I then suggest that there could be three alternative interpretations to the “host-microbiota” holobiont/superorganism/metaorganism.
Location: salle TP – Visio 2. Plan d’accès à cette salle : Plan-acces-visio-CARREIRE
Chiu Lynn

– April 6th, 2016 (11am-12pm): Biology Talk: Philippe Horvath (DuPont):
Discovery of CRISPR-Cas, the bacterial immune system: From fundamental research to industrial applications
  • Slides of the talk: Slides Horvath.
  • Abstract:
    Discovered in 2007, CRISPR-Cas is a bacterial immunity system directed against nucleic acids, notably viral DNA. In this system, the immunological memory is built through the acquisition of short viral DNA sequences into the chromosome of the bacterial host, within peculiar regions called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). In the interference stage, these sequences are transcribed into small RNA molecules named crRNAs, that are used by Cas (CRISPR-associated) proteins to recognize and inactivate any foreign DNA showing sequence complementary to the crRNAs. The ability of certain Cas proteins, notably Cas9, to be directed by a short RNA towards a DNA target and to cleave it at a precise position has been diverted and transformed in 2012 into a simple and efficient tool for genome editing. Since then, the Cas9 tool has been applied successfully to genome modification of numerous organisms, including microorganisms, plants, animals, and humans. This presentation will focus on the milestone and fundamental discoveries about CRISPR-Cas systems, and on some of their applications.
  • Links to know in more detail Philippe Horvath’s role in the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas system:
  •  Location: Campus Carreire, Amphi. 12
  • Big crowd to listen to Philippe Horvath’s talk:

Public amphi Horvath

– April 27th, 2016: Marcel Weber (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
 What’s Special About Genes? Causal Specificity, Information, and Genetic Causation
Attention! Exceptionnellement, la séance commencera à 12h au lieu de 12h30 (The seminar will start at noon, instead of 12:30pm)


  • Video of the talk: Video Weber
  • Abstract:
    Philosophers of biology have recently been debating to what extent such nucleic acids that are said to carry genetic information (i.e., DNA or mRNA) really play a special role in development. A recent attempt to defend such a special role consists in arguing that nucleic acid is what makes an actual difference (as opposed to potential differences) to the amino acid sequence of proteins. However, this is not sufficient as there are often other actual-difference makers involved in protein synthesis, for example, splicing or post-translational modification mechanisms. For this reasons, it has been suggested that what distinguishes nucleic acid is their causal specificity. Causal specificity has to do with the amount of control that interventions on the cause variable can exert on the effect variable. However, a quantitative measure of causal specificity can be used to show that in many cases the specificity of non-genetic causes is a full match to the genetic causes. In this talk, I will argue that what matters biologically is the causal specificity that inheres in possible interventions that are biologically normal, where biological normality is defined both in terms of what can happen in a population of organisms at a non-negligible probability and what is consistent with normal biological functioning of the rest of the organism. This kind of causal specificity is higher for genetic causes than for the (known) non-genetic causes.

May, 2nd, 2016 (1pm): Melinda Bonnie Fagan (University of Utah, USA)

Stem cell models: cell identity, development, and levels of organization

  •  Slides of the talk: Slides Fagan
  • Abstract:
    The concept of a stem cell is a peculiar one, uniting two very different
    ideas.  A cell is a well-characterized biological entity, observable via
    relatively simple technology and clearly distinguished from its
    environment and other cells by a bounding membrane.  A stem is the
    beginning of a process, the point of origin for something that is to be.
    A stem cell, then, is both entity and process; a cell defined by what it
    gives rise to rather than its observable traits.  In this talk, I present
    a minimal abstract model of the stem cell concept, and explore its
    implications for key questions in philosophy of biology.  The model
    explicates the general definition of ³stem cell² as a cell that has both
    the capacity to self-renew and the capacity to differentiate.  After
    presenting the model, I discuss three of its implications. (1) Stem cells
    can be individuated only relative to particular experimental methods and
    hypotheses, such that the concept in practice is diverse and
    context-dependent. (2) Stem cell concepts involve substantive assumptions
    about biological development, at organismal, cellular, and molecular
    levels.  The modeling approach offers a systematic framework for
    representing and comparing these concepts, via the topology of lineage
    trees. (3) The aforementioned assumptions about development have
    implications for theories of cancer, in particular the idea of ³cancer
    stem cells.²
  • Location: 1pm, salle de conférences de l’IBGC (directions)

– May 27, 2016, 2:30pm: David C. Queller & Joan Strassmann (Queller/Strassmann Research Group, Washington University in St. Louis, USA)

 Kith selection: simple theory, complicated amoebas and bacteria

Commentator: Johannes Martens (IHPST, CNRS & Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne)

The evolution of cooperation is well understood when the cooperators are relatives but perhaps less so when they are unrelated. We will explore two aspects of evolutionary interactions among non-relatives, which we call kith selection. On the theoretical side, we show how these interactions can be expressed in form exactly parallel Hamilton’s rule. On the empirical side, we describe a complex “farming” symbiosis between Burkholderia bacteria and Dictyostelid amoebas.

Location: Salle des conférences du Bâtiment Espace Santé (Map_Espace santé)

 Queller David

May, 31st, 2016: Daniel Choquet (DR CNRS Bordeaux, Directeur de l’Institut Interdisciplinaire de Neurosciences); Title TBA.

– June 6th 10am-12pm: Denis Walsh (University of Toronto, Canada)

Bibliothèque du service de Rhumatologie, 12e étage du Tripode, groupe hospitalier Pellegrin.

Rencontre avec l’auteur à propos de son livre : Organisms, Agency, and Evolution (2016)

La séminaire se tiendra en anglais.

Walsh Denis

– June 7th, 2016, 12:30pm: Michel Morange (Centre Cavaillès, ENS Paris & UPMC).

What does a ‘global history’ of biology bring to us?

  • Video of the talk: Video Morange
  • Abstract:
    To write a global history of life sciences from Antiquity to extant research, from molecular biology to ecology and ethology is an impossible task, the promise to be inaccurate and wrong in many issues.
    Nevertheless, the result is not without interest. It casts a new light on continuities and discontinuities in biological thought, and on the relations between biology and other scientific disciplines. It reveals the circulation of concepts and methods between biological subdisciplines, and between Society and biology. It shows the complex dynamics of biological transformations that gives biology its specific nature.
Morange Michel

– June 20, 10am-12pm: André Ariew (Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri, USA)
Sir Francis Galton, Reversion, and the Quincunx: The Rise of Statistical Explanations
Philosophical lessons learned from Galton’s statistical innovations about the nature of scientific explanation.

Salle de réunion FR TransBioMed (Université Bordeaux Segalen, Bât 1A, 2ème étage – Zone Nord – Case 53, 146, rue Léo Saignat, 33076 Bordeaux cedex France)

Ariew Andre

July 19th, 2016: Etienne Coutureau (DR CNRS Bordeaux, Neurobiologie des fonctions exécutives): “Behaving in a changing world”.
This talk will be given in 2017.

– Date TBA: workshop dedicated to plants. Speakers: Quentin Hiernaux (Bruxelles) Sophie Gerber (INRA Bordeaux), Marie-Laure Loustau (INRA Bordeaux).

Past program (January-July 2015):

Mardi 13 Janvier, 12h30 à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 6) :

Andreas Bikfalvi – ‘Variations, évolutions et métamorphoses de l’arbre vasculaire’ (discutant: Thomas Pradeu)

Mardi 10 Février, 12h30 à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 6) :

Cédric Brun – ‘L’explication en neurosciences, mécanisme et réductionnisme?’ (discutant: Thomas Boraud)

Vendredi 20 Mars, de 14h à 15h30 (Salle de conférences du Centre de génomique fonctionnelle) :

Philippe Kourilsky – ‘Le jeu du hasard et de la complexité’

(discutant: Thomas Pradeu)

Lundi 20 Avril, de 12h30 à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 6) :

Maël Lemoine – Comment définir la maladie?

(discutant à préciser)

Lundi 18 Mai, de 12h20 à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 6) :
Nora Abrous (Titre à préciser)
(discutant: A.M. Ferner)

Lundi 8 juin, de 12h à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 7) :

Thomas Boraud, Les neurosciences peuvent-elle étudier les processus de prise de décision sans tomber dans la néo-phrénologie?
(discutant: Cédric Brun)

Mardi 23 juin de 12h30 à 14h, (Salle de conférences du Centre de génomique fonctionnelle (site Carreire)) :

Jan Pieter Konsman, Titre à préciser

(discutant à préciser)

Jeudi 16 Juillet, de 12h30 à 14h (Site de Carreire, Amphi 6) :
Adam Ferner – Organic individuals

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