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A regime of organization in which parts make specific and mutually complementary contributions to the maintenance of a whole, or system. Self-determining systems determine themselves in the sense that their organized activities contribute to maintaining the organization on which those activities depend. That is, they achieve organizational closure. See, “Organizational Closure (or, Closure of Constraints).”


Mossio, M. and L. Bich. (2017). “What makes biological organisation teleological?” Synthese 194:1089–1114.

Selfish Gene Theory

A presentation of evolutionary theory based on the idea that the gene is the ultimate beneficiary of evolution by natural selection. Selfish gene theorists define a “gene” as any stretch of DNA that survives recombination, enabling it to benefit from selective preservation. (Selfish gene theorists impute no intentionality to genes; the language of selfishness is heuristic only.)


Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


A trait that arose as a correlate of growth or an accidental by-product of selection on a different trait, and therefore has no proper evolutionary function. Spandrels that increase the fitness of their bearers are a kind of exaptation.


Gould, S.J. and R.C. Lewontin (1979). “The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 205:581–598.