The Multi-Causal Basis of Developmental Potential Construction
Em: Acta Biotheoretica
In this article we analyse the issue of what accounts for developmental potential, i.e., the possible phenotypes a developing organism can manifest during ontogeny. We shall argue in favour of two theses. First, although the developing organism is the unit of development, the complete causal basis for its potential to develop does neither lie entirely in itself as a whole nor in any specific part of itself (such as its genome). Thus, the extra-organismal environment must be counted as one of the three necessary, partial and complementary causal bases for development potential. Secondly, we shall defend a constructivist view of the developmental process. If the genome, the developing organism and the extra-organismal environment are to be counted as proper elements of the causal basis for an organism’s developmental potential, the latter is not a given. Rather, it is the result of an interaction-based construction, a process sometimes generating genuine developmental novelty. We will thus argue for an interactionist multi-causal basis view of developmental potential construction. We contend that our view provides a biologically tenable and metaphysically coherent account of developmental dynamics.