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Maja Sidzińska

Pregnancy, ontology, and science

I am ​interested in how many organisms, understood as biological individuals, we find there to be in a pregnant mammal. On one hand, we might count one, if we think that an immunological boundary determines "where" a single organism begins and ends. On the other hand, we might count multiple, if we think that a unique genome determines "where" single organisms begin and end. Given that potential answers conflict, how should we decide the question?


The placental connection between the maternal organism and its fetus(es) greatly complicates accounts of organismal biological individuality. Notably, philosophers have often suggested that mammalian organisms are unproblematic individuals, focusing on case studies such as insect colonies and holobionts as complicating examples for biological individuality. But pregnancy shows that mammals are no less complicated! Why have scholars (until very recently) neglected this case?

I am also interested in normative questions that may be impacted by the issue of organismal biological individuality. For instance: how many patients are present in a maternity care setting? And what kinds of counting practices are useful for empirical research on  units of selection?



In the process of investigating pregnancy and its implications for biological individuality, many questions arise about the kinds of frameworks in which we investigate--or should investigate--such issues. "Substance" metaphysics, processual metaphysics, pragmatist approaches, and realisms as well as antirealisms, provide different frames for understanding questions about individuality, among other issues. I evaluate these frameworks on the basis of what they obscure versus make intelligible about the entities that are involved in pregnancy, i.e., about maternal organisms and fetuses. I also evaluate these frameworks with regard to other scientific and practical aims. Finally, I am interested in naturalism, feminism, and their relationship (or lack of relationship), as revealed in questions about pregnancy and sexual reproduction more generally. 

Other interests

I have side interests in the politics of reproduction, in bioethics and biomedical technologies, and in naturalized approaches to values. In addition, I dabble in questions of scale with regard to organizations and polities, and find the philosophy of bureaucracy and institutions fascinating. I am generally interested in the history of ideas, the history of philosophy, and in the political economy.

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