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The informational gene: semantic concepts in genetics as models

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This talk outlines the key philosophical positions surrounding the ascription of semantic properties to genes. Teleosemantic and developmental role accounts of genomic representation are critiqued for taking ‘informational talk’ too seriously. I propose that intentional language in biology is metaphorical. Following the theories of metaphor proposed by Richard Boyd, Max Black and Kendall Walton among others, I maintain that the semantic information root metaphor played a central role in constituting early theories and hypotheses in genetics. I discuss how its role in molecular biology has diminished, and note its numerous pitfalls.

This talk is part of the HPS Philosophy Workshop series.

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