I, holobiont. Are you and your microbes a community or a single entity? – Derek Skillings

March 7, 2019 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Dweck Center, Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238

When we’re asked to give examples of philosophical questions, we’re likely to think of questions that are very, very old. Is the physical world all there is? How should I live? How do we know what we know? But some philosophical problems are quite new, made possible or urgent by new developments in science and culture. These are often the most exciting problems to think through.

On March 7th at 7:30 PM, Derek Skillings joins Brooklyn Public Philosophers to share his work on the philosophical consequences of the fact that we are holobionts – biological units composed of hosts and their associated swarms of microorganisms. If you’re interested in health, the problem of personal identity, the philosophy of biology in general, or the philosophical consequences of the fact that we’re made up of a bunch of little things which are themselves alive in particular, you’ll want to check this one out. Here’s the abstract:

“I, holobiont. Are you and your microbes a community or a single entity?”

You are a holobiont – a biological unit made up of a host and its associated microbiome (bacteria, protists, viruses and other microscopic entities). What consequences does this have for how we understand ourselves and other similar organisms? What are our spatial and temporal boundaries, and what does it mean to be a healthy holobiont? In this talk I will look at some alternatives for making sense of both holobiont individuality and “healthy holobiont/microbiome” talk. I will argue that existing accounts of human health are not appropriate for microbiomes, and that notions of ecosystem health face similar shortcomings. I will end by looking at some possibilities for understanding overall host health given the importance and ubiquity of microbiomes.

As usual, we meet at the Dweck Center at the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Here’s the Facebook event! Tell everyone, please!

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