Francesca Bellazzi


Functions and Unity in Biochemistry


Biochemical molecules are interesting case studies for those interested in inter-science relations as they can be approached either from the perspective of chemistry, focusing on their microstructure, or from the perspective of biology, focusing on the function they play. They are molecules at the borders: on the one hand chemical on the other biological. This feature makes them good candidates to explore the possible unity or disunity of science and the relations not only between disciplines but also between ontological domains or levels. Here, I will focus on the latter ontological sense of unity and explore two forms of unity: reductive unity and non-reductive unity via weak-emergence. Throughout the paper, I will support my argument by referring to vitamin B12.

The structure of the talk is the following. First, I will present the debate concerning biochemical kinds and why functions are often taken to be a source of disunity. Then, I will present a way to interpret biochemical functions that is compatible with unity. I will argue that biochemical functions can be analysed in terms of sets of chemical dispositional properties that contribute to the phenomenon of life. Lastly, I will explore two ways in which we can achieve unity: reduction and non-reductive unity. In conclusion, despite both options being available, the latter view seems to be preferable because it takes into account “the best of both worlds”.

Date / Time / Place

June 21st / 16:00 / Aula Magna