CIRID, CNRS and University of Bordeaux

Thomas Pradeu is a full time researcher in Philosophy of Science at the CNRS in Bordeaux. His research deals mainly with the issues of biological identity and individuality, and with the study of how the immune system works. He has published The Limits of the Self (Oxford University Press, 2012), and many articles in both philosophy and science journals.


E Pluribus Unum: What Makes Our Biological Identity?
Biologically speaking, each of us is a “we.” In fact, every living thing is a complex ecosystem, constituted of billions of cells belonging to many different species, and even to different kingdoms. A human being, for instance, is made up of 90% of bacterial cells, most of them having a symbiotic relationship with the host. How is such an ecosystem constituted? How do these “influential passengers” that we host in our bodies (bacteria, viruses, etc.) impact our development and our daily functioning? And how can the body make of such a plurality of constituents, in the end, one entity? In this talk, Pradeu will raise the issue of biological identity, and he will suggest that one particular body system, namely the immune system, plays a pivotal role in the unification process mentioned above. The immune system does not delineate a homogeneous “self,” but, rather, a heterogeneous organism. Pradeu will conclude that, thus conceived, the organism looks like Salvador Dalí’s famous painting Galatea of the Spheres.

Time: 8 pm
Location: Ukrainian Institute of America / East Room