Are we individuals or co-dividuals? An encounter between biology and anthropology€ 3.00
There is nothing more natural than thinking of ourselves as individuals: “I’m me, full stop”. But anthropologists have found very different ways of representing the self or personhood in other societies, where beings are plural and divisible and are defined as dividuals. On further consideration, one discovers these beings are often also viewed as small societies. The I is a whole, a coexistence, neither an individual nor a “dividual”, but a co-dividual. Anthropologists thought they’d made a great discovery. But actually no: from the time biologists started studying microorganisms and the forms of internal symbiosis, they started to question the concept of the individual and personal identity and discovered what we usually call individuals are actually “co-dividuals”. So, biologists and anthropologists have travelled two very different paths, which at one point intertwined, to the satisfaction of both of professions (and perhaps not only them).
Elena Gagliasso, lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at the Università La Sapienza in Rome, has directed the Res Viva research centre and is a member of the Women and Science Association. Her research ranges from the philosophy of biology to the relations between science, philosophy and society. She has written and curated various books, including: Verso un’epistemologia del mondo vivente (Guerini, 2001) and Percorsi evolutivi (Franco Angeli, 2016).
Elena Gagliasso & i Dialoghi
Francesco Remotti, emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology, member of the Academy of Sciences in Turin and the Accademia dei Lincei, has carried out ethnographical and historical research among the Banande people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has developed theories on the concept of identity and on anthropopoiesis. His publications include: Contro l’identità (1996); Contro natura (2008); L’ossessione identitaria (2010); Cultura (2011); Fare umanità. I drammi dell’antropo-poiesi (2013); and Somiglianze. Una via per la convivenza (2019) with Laterza.