Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Perception

Philosophy of Biology: Biological Individuality

Implications of the Holobiont for Biological Individuality

How should we understand the importance of microorganisms for macroorganism life? What is the nature of "us" as humans, given the role of microorganisms in our reproductive, physical, and mental lives?

What kind of unit is the "holobiont" (multicellular organism + microorganisms)? Is the holobiont evolutionarily significant beyond a unit of selection? What is the holobiont from an immunological perspective? How do the immunological & evolutionary perspectives intersect?

Can scaffold biology (Griesemer 2014) provide a good framework for the holobiont? Why and why not?


  • Chiu & Gilbert (2015) The birth of the holobiont: Multi-species birthing through mutual scaffolding and niche construction. Biosemiotics 8: 191. (publisher link)
  • Chiu & Eberl (2016) Microorganisms as scaffolds of host individuality: an eco-immunity account of the holobiont. Biol Philos 31: 819 (publisher link)
  • Chiu and Bazin et al. (2017) Protective Microbiota: From Localized to Long-Reaching Co-Immunity. Front. Immunol. (publisher link) [download pdf]


  • Holobionts as Units of Reciprocally Entangled Evolutionary Processes (REEPs)

Philosophy of Science: Scientific Explanations

Evolutionary Explanations:

How do recent developments in ecological evolutionary developmental biology impact classical evolutionary explanations? Does niche construction supplement (Niche Construction Theory) or revise (Lewontin 2000) traditional accounts of natural selection?

How do strategies of idealization and abstraction impact the role of fundamental concepts (such as fitness) in evolutionary theorizing?


  • (forthcoming) Decoupling, Commingling, and the Evolutionary Significance of Experiential Niche Construction in "Evolutionary Causation: Biological and Philosophical Reflections" edited by Uller and Laland ( Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology, MIT Press)


  • Fitness and Niche Construction

Physiological & Immunological Explanations:

What is the function of the immune system? Does the immune system extend or build an organism?

Are there distinctively physiological explanations? Is immunology a branch of physiology from an explanatory standpoint, does it adopt the same kinds of explanatory strategies?

Is homeostasis a unifying concept in physiology? Does homeostasis play the same type of explanatory role in various branches of physiology, especially immunology? What is nature of the principle of balance in immunological explanations?



  • Extending Organisms (with Thomas Pradeu) (under review)
  • Homeostatic Explanations in Physiology and Immunology

Philosophy of Perception

Gut-Mind Connections

Currently, I am building a project -- Philosophy of the Gut-- that offers a new approach to the nature and origin of perception and consciousness by starting with the gut and its microbiota, our oldest interface with the world.

Is the gut just a digestive organ or is it also a sensory interface with the world? If the latter, what is the relation between the brain and the gut and the relation between the gut and the mind? How is the gut different from other sensory modalities integrated in the brain?

Is the gut just a reflex system? New considerations of an integrated neuro-endocrine-immune-microbiota system seem to suggest previously unexamined types of complexity and flexibility in the gut system. How will these findings challenge the distinction between conscious vs. unconscious bodily phenomena and the role of the gut in mental activities?


  • grant proposal under preparation

Motion Illusions and Visual Tracking

In my previous life (master student in psychology), I argued that the famous stepping feet illusion (right) is not entirely explained by contrast between the stripes and the moving rectangles, but by the appearance/disappearance of cues for visual tracking. This work is under preparation for publication with Dr. Su-Ling Yeh (National Taiwan University).


  • (draft) Contrast-dependent Motion and Attentive Tracking Impairment in the Footsteps and Fan Illusions (Chiu and Yeh)

See demo: