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The Philosophical Impact of Cybernetics on Waddington’s Processual Epigenetics

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Keywords: Cybernetics, Epigenetics, Metaphysics of Process, Organicism, Waddington, Whitehead.

The paper analyses Conrad Hal Waddington’s systemic and antireductionist approach to biology, and explains its development in the period between the 1930s and 1950s. The research establishes a link between Waddington’s metaphysics of process and Whitehead’s organicism of the 1920s, and argues that it was mainly Waddington’s cybernetics – rather than organicism – to lead the foundation for his subsequent novel scientific approach. It will be shown that this link is fundamental to understand the conceptual dimensions of Waddington’s processual epigenetics and to clarify what contributions it made to contemporary theoretical biology.

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