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What are ribozymes for? Arguing for function pluralism.


Function pluralists argue against the possibility of any unified account of function that would capture the multiple functional ascriptions we make in our use of ‘function’. Here, I contribute to this pluralist view. I dissect a specific case of functional ascription in molecular biology—the attribution of functions to catalytic RNAs called ribozymes—and argue that it highlights serious issues for the philosophical project of proposing a unified account of function. These issues stem from the multiple contexts in which ribozymes are found: they occur in living organisms; they are artificially synthesized in the laboratory; they are even hypothesized to have spontaneously occurred on Earth 3.8 billion years ago, as proposed by the RNA-world scenario of the origin of life. I argue that ribosomal functional ascription in these different contexts supports a strong form of pluralism for accounts of function that I call ‘local-pluralism’.


Malaterre, C. (2023). What are ribozymes for? Arguing for function pluralism. Dans J. Gayon, A. de Ricqlès et A. C. Dussault (dir.), Functions: From organisms to artefacts (p. 265-280). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

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