David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy Compass 2 (3):592–610 (2007)
This article serves as an introduction to the laws-of-biology debate. After introducing the main issues in an introductory section, arguments for and against laws of biology are canvassed in Section 2. In Section 3, the debate is placed in wider epistemological context by engaging a group of scholars who have shifted the focus away from the question of whether there are laws of biology and toward offering good accounts of explanation(s) in the biological sciences. Section 4 introduces two relatively new pieces of science – metabolic scaling theory and ecological stoichiometry – that have not been topics of much discussion by philosophers but are relevant because they have at least some of the hallmarks of laws of nature. Section 5 concludes by pointing out that discovering laws of biology, if any there be, will not necessarily answer the questions raised by the debate in the first place: we will still want to know how biology compares to other sciences, how to characterize its systems and processes, and whether accounts in terms of laws always or usually constitute adequate explanations in various sciences.
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James Woodward (2003). Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford University Press.
Nancy Cartwright (1999). The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. Cambridge University Press.
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Citations of this work BETA
Derek D. Turner (2014). Philosophical Issues in Recent Paleontology. Philosophy Compass 9 (7):494-505.
Sara Green (2015). Revisiting Generality in Biology: Systems Biology and the Quest for Design Principles. Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):629-652.
Axel Gelfert (2013). Strategies of Model-Building in Condensed Matter Physics: Trade-Offs as a Demarcation Criterion Between Physics and Biology? Synthese 190 (2):253-272.
Giovanni Boniolo, Marcello D’Agostino, Mario Piazza & Gabriele Pulcini (2015). Adding Logic to the Toolbox of Molecular Biology. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (3):399-417.
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