Is a virus a distinct entity? (John Dupré)

By John Dupré

Viruses are usually portrayed as stable and distinct individuals that do not fit the more integrated and collaborative picture of nature implied by symbiosis. In this paper (by John Dupré and Stephan Guttinger) we will contest this view. This paper first discusses recent findings in virology that show that viruses can be ‘nice’ and collaborate with their hosts, meaning that they form part of integrated biological systems and processes. It then offers various reasons why viruses should be seen as processes rather than things, or substances. Based on these two claims it argues that, far from serving as a counterexample to it, viruses actually enable a deeper understanding of the fundamentally interconnected and collaborative nature of nature. It concludes with some reflections on the debate as to whether viruses should be seen as living, and argue that there are good reasons for an affirmative answer to this question.

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