Agential Behavior and Plasticity in Evolution

Coordinator: Denis Walsh, University of Toronto

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Chimpanzee attempting to extract termites out of a hole in a nest with a stick. Photo by Mark Higgins, Dreamstime stock images
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Over the past two decades there has been tremendous growth in the study of behavior and plasticity in the context of evolutionary processes. Although a variety of models now exist that highlight the potential significance of these phenomena, a number of questions remain hotly debated. Some of these revolve around newly characterized entities, such as in holobionts, whereas others pertain to whether agential explanations generalize more widely than previously thought. Collaborative teams of philosophers, theoreticians, and experimentalists make it possible to canvas agential capacities of different kinds, such as the inherent plasticity of exploratory behavior, for influencing patterns in evolutionary rates and directions on various time scales, thereby informing the reality (or illusion) and significance of biological purposiveness.

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October 18, 2021
Organizing Interdisciplinary Research on Purpose