The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology is an exciting collection of new essays written especially to give the reader an introduction to one of the most vibrant areas of scholarship today, and at the same time to move the subject forward dramatically. Written in a clear and rigorous style it will give the more experienced scholar much to think about and will also be of great value to the new student of the subject. The handbook covers the (...) history of the topic, then moves into important analyses of contemporary evolutionary thinking, and continues with discussions of genetics and the moral and epistemological foundations of our understanding of heredity. The book goes on to cover ecology, behavior and morality, and does not neglect religion or feminist issues. Finally, it takes up matters to do with language and metaphor. The authors range from the senior and experienced to new and exciting young scholars. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology is a collection that will be of interest to philosophers of science, to philosophers generally, as well as biologists of all kinds. There is no better way to learn about this dynamic field than through the essays in this volume. (shrink)
The philosophy of biology is one of the most exciting new areas in the field of philosophy and one that is attracting much attention from working scientists. This Companion, edited by two of the founders of the field, includes newly commissioned essays by senior scholars and up-and-coming younger scholars who collectively examine the main areas of the subject - the nature of evolutionary theory, classification, teleology and function, ecology, and the problematic relationship between biology and religion, (...) among other topics. Up-to-date and comprehensive in its coverage, this unique volume will be of interest not only to professional philosophers but also to students in the humanities and researchers in the life sciences and related areas of inquiry. (shrink)
Drawing on work of the past decade, this volume brings together articles from the philosophy, history, and sociology of science, and many other branches of the biological sciences. The volume delves into the latest theoretical controversies as well as burning questions of contemporary social importance. The issues considered include the nature of evolutionary theory, biology and ethics, the challenge from religion, and the social implications of biology today (in particular the Human Genome Project).
In addition to being one of the world's most influential philosophers, Aristotle can also be credited with the creation of both the science of biology and the philosophy of biology. He was the first thinker to treat the investigations of the living world as a distinct inquiry with its own special concepts and principles. This book focuses on a seminal event in the history of biology - Aristotle's delineation of a special branch of theoretical knowledge devoted (...) to the systematic investigation of animals. Aristotle approached the creation of zoology with the tools of subtle and systematic philosophies of nature and of science that were then carefully tailored to the investigation of animals. The papers collected in this volume, written by a pre-eminent figure in the field of Aristotle's philosophy and biology, examine Aristotle's approach to biological inquiry and explanation, his concepts of matter, form and kind, and his teleology. (shrink)
This book examines from a multidisciplinary viewpoint the question of what we mean - what we should mean - by setting sustainability as a goal for environmental management. The author, trained as a philosopher of science and language, explores ways to break down the disciplinary barriers to communication and deliberation about environment policy, and to integrate science and evaluations into a more comprehensive environmental policy. Choosing sustainability as the keystone concept of environmental policy, the author explores what we can learn (...) about sustainable living from the philosophy of pragmatism, from ecology, from economics, from planning, from conservation biology and from related disciplines. The idea of adaptive, or experimental, management provides the context, while insights from various disciplines are integrated into a comprehensive philosophy of environmental management. The book will appeal to students and professionals in the fields of environmental policy and ethics, conservation biology, and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Perhaps because of it implications for our understanding of human nature, recent philosophy of biology has seen what might be the most dramatic work in the philosophies of the ”special” sciences. This drama has centered on evolutionary theory, and in the second edition of this textbook, Elliott Sober introduces the reader to the most important issues of these developments. With a rare combination of technical sophistication and clarity of expression, Sober engages both the higher level of theory and (...) the direct implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. Above all, the reader will gain from this book a firm grasp of the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance. (shrink)
Comprised of essays by top scholars in the field, this volume offers concise overviews of philosophical issues raised by biology. Brings together a team of eminent scholars to explore the philosophical issues raised by biology Addresses traditional and emerging topics, spanning molecular biology and genetics, evolution, developmental biology, immunology, ecology, mind and behaviour, neuroscience, and experimentation Begins with a thorough introduction to the field Goes beyond previous treatments that focused only on evolution to give equal attention (...) to other areas, such as molecular and developmental biology Represents both an authoritative guide to philosophy of biology, and an accessible reference work for anyone seeking to learn about this rapidly-changing field. (shrink)
Some foundational debates in philosophy of biology Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9517-x Authors Stavros Ioannidis, Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, 9 Woodland Rd, Bristol, BS8 1TB UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
John Dupré explores recent revolutionary developments in biology and considers their relevance for our understanding of human nature and human society. Epigenetics and related areas of molecular biology have eroded the exceptional status of the gene and presented the genome as fully interactive with the rest of the cell. Developmental systems theory provides a space for a vision of evolution that takes full account of the fundamental importance of developmental processes. Dupré shows the importance of microbiology for a (...) proper understanding of the living world, and reveals how it subverts such basic biological assumptions as the organisation of biological kinds on a branching tree of life, and the simple traditional conception of the biological organism. -/- These topics are considered in the context of a view of science as realistically grounded in the natural order, but at the same time as pluralistic and inextricably integrated within a social and normative context. The volume includes a section that recapitulates and expands some of the author's general views on science; a section addressing a range of topics in biology, including the significance of genomics, the nature of the organism and the current status of evolutionary theory; and a section exploring some implications of contemporary biology for humans, for example on the reality or unreality of human races, and the plasticity of human nature. (shrink)
EM Music Education /EM is a collection of thematically organized essays that present an historical background of the picture of education first in Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, then Early-Modern Europe. The bulk of the book focuses on American education up to the present. This third edition includes readings by Orff, Kodály, Sinichi Suzuki, William Channing Woodbridge, Allan Britton, and Charles Leonhard. In addition, essays include timely topics on feminism, diversity, cognitive psych, testing (the Praxis exam) and the No (...) Child Left Behind Act. (shrink)
Exploring central philosophical issues concerning scientific research in modern experimental biology, this book clarifies the strategies, concepts, reasoning, approaches, tools, models and experimental systems deployed by researchers. It also integrates recent developments in historical scholarship, in particular, the New Experimentalism, making this work of interest to philosophers and historians of science as well as to biological researchers.
This paper reviews Rosenberg’s and McShea’s textbook in philosophy of biology, entitled Philosophy of Biology. A Contemporary Introduction. I insist on the excellent quality of this textbook, then I turn to more critical comments, which deal mainly with what philosophy of biology is, and what it should be.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology covers a broad range of topics in this field. It is not just a textbook focusing on evolutionary theory but encompasses ethics, social science and behaviour too. This essay outlines the scope of the work, discusses some points on methodology in the philosophy of biology, and then moves on to a more detailed analysis of cultural evolution and the applicability of a philosophy of biology toolkit to the (...) social sciences. It is noted that concepts like the species concept may generalise to other domains whilst failing to account for the nature of all species. Finally, the author notes the omission of any discussion of information in biology. (shrink)
Elliott Sober is one of the leading philosophers of science and is a former winner of the Lakatos Prize, the major award in the field. This new collection of essays will appeal to a readership that extends well beyond the frontiers of the philosophy of science. Sober shows how ideas in evolutionary biology bear in significant ways on traditional problems in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Amongst the topics addressed are psychological egoism, solipsism, and (...) the interpretation of belief and utterance, empiricism, Ockham's razor, causality, essentialism, and scientific laws. The collection will prove invaluable to a wide range of philosophers, primarily those working in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. (shrink)
Philosophers of biology, along with everyone else, generally perceive life to fall into two broad categories, the microbes and macrobes, and then pay most of their attention to the latter. ‘Macrobe’ is the word we propose for larger life forms, and we use it as part of an argument for microbial equality. We suggest that taking more notice of microbes – the dominant life form on the planet, both now and throughout evolutionary history – will transform some of the (...)philosophy of biology’s standard ideas on ontology, evolution, taxonomy and biodiversity. We set out a number of recent developments in microbiology – including biofilm formation, chemotaxis, quorum sensing and gene transfer – that highlight microbial capacities for cooperation and communication and break down conventional thinking that microbes are solely or primarily single-celled organisms. These insights also bring new perspectives to the levels of selection debate, as well as to discussions of the evolution and nature of multicellularity, and to neo-Darwinian understandings of evolutionary mechanisms. We show how these revisions lead to further complications for microbial classification and the philosophies of systematics and biodiversity. Incorporating microbial insights into the philosophy of biology will challenge many of its assumptions, but also give greater scope and depth to its investigations. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr’s influence on philosophy of biology has given the field a particular perspective on evolution, phylogeny and life in general. Using debates about the tree of life as a guide, I show how Mayrian evolutionary biology excludes numerous forms of life and many important evolutionary processes. Hybridization and lateral gene transfer are two of these processes, and they occur frequently, with important outcomes in all domains of life. Eukaryotes appear to have a more tree-like history because (...) successful lateral events tend to occur among more closely related species, or at a lower frequency, than in prokaryotes, but this is a difference of degree rather than kind. Although the tree of life is especially problematic as a representation of the evolutionary history of prokaryotes, it can function more generally as an illustration of the limitations of a standard evolutionary perspective. Moreover, for philosophers, questions about the tree of life can be applied to the Mayrian inheritance in philosophy of biology. These questions make clear that the dichotomy of life Mayr suggested is based on too narrow a perspective. An alternative to this dichotomy is a multidimensional continuum in which different strategies of genetic exchange bestow greater adaptiveness and evolvability on prokaryotes and eukaryotes. (shrink)
Mayr has made both conceptual and professional contributions to the establishment of the history and philosophy of biology. His conceptual contributions include, among many others, the notion of population thinking. He has also played an important role in the establishment of history and philosophy of biology as viable professional disciplines.
Yellowstone National Park poses critical issues in biology and philosophy. Among these are (1) how to value nature, especially at the ecosystem level, and whether to let nature take its course or employ hands-on scientific management; (2) the meaning of natural as this operates in park policy; (3) establishing biological claims on th scale of regional systems; (4) the interplay of natural and cultural history, involving both native and European Americans; (5) and sociopolitical forces as determinants in biological (...) discovery. Alston Chase's strident Playing God in Yellowstone is critized and used as a test of David Hull's naturalistic philosophy of biology. Biology and philosophy in Yellowstone ought to combine for an appropriate environmental ethic. (shrink)
Philosophy can shed light on mathematical modeling and the juxtaposition of modeling and empirical data. This paper explores three philosophical traditions of the structure of scientific theory—Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic—to show that each illuminates mathematical modeling. The Pragmatic View identifies four critical functions of mathematical modeling: (1) unification of both models and data, (2) model fitting to data, (3) mechanism identification accounting for observation, and (4) prediction of future observations. Such facets are explored using a recent exchange between two (...) groups of mathematical modelers in plant biology. Scientific debate can arise from different modeling philosophies. (shrink)
Philosophy of biology, perhaps more than any other philosophy of science, is a discipline in flux. What counts as consensus and key arguments in certain areas changes rapidly.The publication of Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology (2010 Wiley-Blackwell) is reviewed and is used as a catalyst to a discussion of the recent expansion of subjects and perspectives in the philosophy of biology as well as their diverse epistemological and methodological commitments.
Overmedication is nowadays a serious problem in health care due to influences from the pharmaceutical industry and agencies responsible for regulation. The situation has indeed become appalling in psychiatry, where both theories and treatments have deteriorated under the impact of the industry. The overmedication problem is associated with biased biology in medicine. Adequate biological approaches would indicate that drug therapies must yield to diet therapies, particularly treatments involving omega-3 fatty acids, in many cases. To the extent that philosophy (...) of science adapts to mainstream medicine in analyses of the current situation, it may reinforce the existing bias. To redress imbalances in health care, we ultimately have to rely on common sense. (shrink)
One way to understand science is as a selection process. David Hull, one of the dominant figures in contemporary philosophy of science, sets out in this volume a general analysis of this selection process that applies equally to biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, operant learning, and social and conceptual change in science. Hull aims to distinguish between those characteristics that are contingent features of selection and those that are essential. Science and Selection brings together (...) many of David Hull's most important essays on selection (some never before published) in one accessible volume. (shrink)
Is life different from the non-living? If so, how? And how, in that case, does biology as the study of living things differ from other sciences? These questions are traced through an exploration of episodes in the history of biology and philosophy. The book begins with Aristotle, then moves on to Descartes comparing his position with that of Harvey. In the eighteenth century the authors consider Buffon and Kant. In the nineteenth century the authors examine the Cuvier-Geoffroy (...) debate, pre-Darwinian geology and natural theology, Darwin and the transition from Darwin to the revival of Mendelism. Two chapters deal with the evolutionary synthesis and such questions as the species problem, the reducibility or otherwise of biology to physics and chemistry, and the problem of biological explanation in terms of function and teleology. The final chapters reflect on the implications of the philosophy of biology for philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
A consensus exists among contemporary philosophers of biology about the history of their field. According to the received view, mainstream philosophy of science in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s focused on physics and general epistemology, neglecting analyses of the 'special sciences', including biology. The subdiscipline of philosophy of biology emerged (and could only have emerged) after the decline of logical positivism in the 1960s and 70s. In this article, I present bibliometric data from four major (...)philosophy of science journals (Erkenntnis, Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science), covering 1930-59, which challenge this view. (shrink)
This overview of philosophy of biology lays out what implications biology and recent philosophy of biology have for general philosophy of science. The following topics are addressed in five sections: natural kinds, conceptual change, discovery and confirmation, explanation and reduction, and naturalism.
Genomics has brought biology, medicine, agriculture, psychology, anthropology, and even philosophy to a new threshold. In this new context, the question about "what is human in humans" may end up being answered by geneticists, specialists of technoscience, and owners of biotech companies. The author defends, in this article, the idea that humanity is at risk in our age of genetic engineering, biotechnologies, and market-geared genetic research; he also argues that the values at the very core of our postgenomic (...) era bring to its peak the science-based ideology that has developed since the time of Galileo, Newton, Descartes, and Harvey; finally, it shows that the bioindustry has invented a new genomythology that goes against the scientific evidence produced by the research in human sciences in which life is interpreted as a language. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent philosophy of biology. It aims to introduce outsiders to the field to the recent literature (which is reviewed in the footnotes) and the main recent debates. I concentrate on three of these: recent critiques of the replicator/vehicle distinction and its application to the idea of the gene as the unit of section; the recent defences of group selection and the idea that standard alternatives to group selection are in fact no more than a disguised (...) form of group selection; and recent ideas on the role of selection in evolution, especially the role of selection in structuring the large-scale history of life. The paper connects philosophy of biology to some more general problems in the philosophy of science, and concludes with a few suggestions about unfinished business. (shrink)
The philosophy of biology has existed as a distinct sub-discipline within the philosophy of science for about thirty years. The rapid growth of the field has mirrored that of the biological sciences in the same period. Today the discipline is well represented in the leading journals in philosophy of science, as well as in several specialist journals. There have been two generations of textbooks (see conclusion) and the subject is regularly taught at undergraduate as well as (...) graduate level. The current high profile of the biological sciences and the obvious philosophical issues that arise in fields as diverse as molecular genetics and conservation biology suggest that the philosophy of biology will remain an exciting field of enquiry for the foreseeable future. (shrink)
The social sciences must be biological ones, owing simply to the fact that they focus on the causes and effects of the behavior of members of a biological species, Homo sapiens. Our improved understanding of biology as a science and of the biological realm should enable us therefore to solve several of the outstanding problems of the philosophy of social science. The solution to these problems leaves most of the social and behavioral sciences pretty much as it finds (...) them, though it does provide improved understanding of their scope, limits, and methods. Key Words: biology natural selection Darwinism models narratives history. (shrink)
Kenneth F. Schaffner compares the practice of biological and medical research and shows how traditional topics in philosophy of science--such as the nature of theories and of explanation--can illuminate the life sciences. While Schaffner pays some attention to the conceptual questions of evolutionary biology, his chief focus is on the examples that immunology, human genetics, neuroscience, and internal medicine provide for examinations of the way scientists develop, examine, test, and apply theories. Although traditional philosophy of science has (...) regarded scientific discovery--the questions of creativity in science--as a subject for psychological rather than philosophical study, Schaffner argues that recent work in cognitive science and artificial intelligence enables researchers to rationally analyze the nature of discovery. As a philosopher of science who holds an M.D., he has examined biomedical work from the inside and uses detailed examples from the entire range of the life sciences to support the semantic approach to scientific theories, addressing whether there are "laws" in the life sciences as there are in the physical sciences. Schaffner's novel use of philosophical tools to deal with scientific research in all of its complexity provides a distinctive angle on basic questions of scientific evaluation and explanation. (shrink)
Aristotle's biological works - constituting over 25% of his surviving corpus and for centuries largely unstudied by philosophically oriented scholars - have been the subject of an increasing amount of attention of late. This collection brings together some of the best work that has been done in this area, with the aim of exhibiting the contribution that close study of these treatises can make to the understanding of Aristotle's philosophy. The book is divided into four parts, each with an (...) introduction which places its essays in relation to each other and to the wider issues of the book as a whole. The first part is an overview of the relationship of Aristotle's biology to his philosophy; the other three each concentrate on a set of issues central to Aristotelian study - definition and demonstration; teleology and necessity in nature; and metaph themes such as the unity of matter and form and the nature of substance. (shrink)
What are the agents of life? Central to our conception of the biological world is the idea that it contains various kinds of individuals, including genes, organisms, and species. How we conceive of these agents of life is central to our understanding of the relationship between life and mind, the place of hierarchical thinking in the biological sciences, and pluralistic views of biological agency. Genes and the Agents of Life rethinks the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing (...) parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life, but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. A companion to Boundaries of the Mind, (Cambridge, 2004) where the focus is on the cognitive sciences, this volume will appeal to professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds (Cambridge, 1995). (shrink)
Philip Kitcher is one of the leading figures in the philosophy of science today. Here he collects, for the first time, many of his published articles on the philosophy of biology, spanning from the mid-1980's to the present. The book's title refers to Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk who was one of the first scientists to develop a theory of heredity. Mendel's work has been deeply influential to our understanding of our selves and our world, just as (...) the study of genetics today will have a profound and long-term impact on future scientific research. Kitcher's articles cover a broad range of topics with similar philosophical and social significance: sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, species, race, altruism, genetic determinism, and the rebirth of creationism in Intelligent Design. Kitcher's work on the intersection of biology and the philosophy of science is both unprecedented and wide-ranging, and will appeal not only to philosophers of science, but to scholars and students across disciplines. (shrink)
Professor Grene's work on Aristotle is considered under three headings: teleology, form, and reductionism. A picture of Aristotle's philosophy of biology is sketched which stresses three elements: the place of living activity in the teleological account of the development and nature of organic structures; the functional nature of Aristotelian form; and the autonomy of biology as a natural science with its own basic principles. These elements are aspects of Aristotle's approach to biology with which Professor Grene (...) has expressed sympathy. (shrink)
The influence that philosophy of science has had on scientific practice is as controversial as it is undeniable, especially in the case of biology. The dynamic between philosophy and biology as disciplines has developed along two different lines that can be characterized as 'paternal', on the one hand, and more 'fraternal', on the other. The role Popperian principles of demarcation and falsifiability have played in both the systematics community as well as the ongoing evolution-creation debates illustrate (...) these contrasting forms of interdisciplinary engagement, underscoring the influence philosophy of science in shaping our contemporary understanding of biology in the North American context. However, a strict disciplinary distinction between philosophy and science may itself be a false dichotomy that risks hampering future development of the biological sciences. By actively engaging with philosophical considerations as an integral part of their scientific practice, nineteenth-century biologists offer an interesting counterpoint to current trends of overspecialization and provide a model of scientists who avoided extremes of antagonism with, or subservience to, philosophy. (shrink)
This set of original essays by some of the best names in philosophy of science explores a range of diverse issues in the intersection of biology and epistemology. It asks whether the study of life requires a special biological approach to knowledge and concludes that it does not. The studies, taken together, help to develop and deepen our understanding of how biology works and what counts as warranted knowledge and as legitimate approaches to the study of life. (...) The first section deals with the nature of evidence and evolutionary theory as it came to dominate nineteenth-century philosophy of science; the second and third parts deal with the impact of laboratory and experimental research. This is an impressive team of authors, bringing together some of the most distinguished philosophers of science today. The volume will interest professionals and graduate students in biology and the history and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Are living organisms--as Descartes argued--just machines? Or is the nature of life such that it can never be fully explained by mechanistic models? In this thought-provoking and controversial book, eminent geophysicist Walter M. Elsasser argues that the behavior of living organisms cannot be reduced to physico-chemical causality. Suggesting that molecular biology today is at the same point as Newtonian physics on the eve of the quantum revolution, Elsasser lays the foundation for a theoretical biology that points the way (...) toward a natural philosophy of organic life. Explicitly repudiating "vitalism" (the notion that the laws of nature need to be modified when applied to living organisms), Elsasser argues instead that the structural complexity of even a single living cell is "transcomputational"--that is, beyond the power of any imaginable system to compute. Beginning from this insight, Elsasser leads the reader through a step-by-step process that ultimately arrives at the conclusion that living and non-living matter are separated by "a no-man's land of irrationality." Trained in Germany as a physicist, Elsasser first pondered the implications of quantum mechanics for biology as early as 1951. The more closely he studied the inherent complexity of life, the more skeptical he became of the reductionist view of organisms as tiny machines. "An organism," he concluded, "is a source of causal chains which cannot be traced beyond a terminal point because they are lost in the unfathomable complexity of the organism." Like the physicist who works within the bounds of an unfathomable universe, Elsasser argues, the biologist must seek answers within a system that is no less unfathomable. (shrink)
This collection of revised and new essays argues that biology is an autonomous science rather than a branch of the physical sciences. Ernst Mayr, widely considered the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, offers insights on the history of evolutionary thought, critiques the conditions of philosophy to the science of biology, and comments on several of the major developments in evolutionary theory. Notably, Mayr explains that Darwin's theory of evolution is actually five separate theories, each (...) with its own history, trajectory and impact. Ernst Mayr, commonly referred to as the "Darwin of the 20th century" and listed as one of the top 100 scientists of all-time, is Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. What Makes Biology Unique is the 25th book he has written during his long and prolific career. His recent books include This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (Belknap Press, 1997) and What Evolution Is (Basic Books, 2002). (shrink)
In recent years, Europe has become a home to a thriving philosophy of biology research community. As part of the ongoing endeavor to raise the profile of the field on the Old Continent, five research institutions from across Europe § EGenIS, IHPST, KLI, MPIWG, and SEMM - gathered together in the small italian village of Gorino Sullam (Po Delta) in september 2008 to hold the first European Graduate Meeting in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences (EGMPLS-1).
Philosophy of biology is a vibrant and growing field. From initial roots in the metaphysics of species (Ghiselin, Hull), questions about whether biology has laws of nature akin to those of physics (Ruse, Hull), and discussions of teleology and function (Grene 1974, Brandon 1981), the field has grown since the 1970s to include a vast range of topics. Over the last few decades, philosophy has had an important impact on biology, partly through following the model (...) of engagement with science that was set by first-wave philosophers of biology like Marjorie Grene, Morton Beckner, David Hull, William Wimsatt and others. Today some parts of philosophy of biology are indistinguishable from theoretical biology. This is due in part to the impetus provided by second-wave philosophers of biology like James Griesemer, John Beatty, William Bechtel, Robert Brandon, Elisabeth Lloyd, and Elliott Sober. Indeed, philosophers have been instrumental in establishing theoretical biology as a field by collaborating with scientists, publishing in science journals, and by taking up conceptual questions at the heart of the biological enterprise. (shrink)
This article identifies already existing theoretical and methodological commonalities between evolutionary biology and phenomenology, concentrating specifically on their common pursuit of origins. It identifies in passing theoretical support from evolutionary biology for present-day concerns in philosophy, singling out Sartre’s conception of fraternity as an example. It anchors its analysis of the common pursuit of origins in Husserl’s consistent recognition of the grounding significance of Nature and in his consistent recognition of animate forms of life other than human. (...) It enumerates and exemplifies five basic errors of continental philosophers with respect to Nature, errors testifying to a philosophical fundamentalism that distorts the intricate interconnections and relationships of Nature in favor of a preferred knowledge rooted in ontological reductionism. It shows that to discover and appreciate the common ground, one must indeed study “the things themselves.”. (shrink)
Despite the amount of work that has been produced on the subject over the years, the ‘transformation of cladistics’ is still a misunderstood episode in the history of comparative biology. Here, I analyze two outstanding, highly contrasting historiographic accounts on the matter, under the perspective of an influential dichotomy in the philosophy of science: the opposition between Scientific Realism and Empiricism. Placing special emphasis on the notion of ‘causal grounding’ of morphological characters ( sensu Olivier Rieppel) in modern (...) developmental biology’s (mechanistic) theories, I arrive at the conclusion that a ‘new transformation of cladistics’ is philosophically plausible. This ‘reformed’ understanding of ‘pattern cladistics’ entails retaining the interpretation of cladograms as ‘schemes of synapomorphies’, but in association to construing cladogram nodes as ‘developmental-genetic taxic homologies’, instead of ‘standard Darwinian ancestors’. The reinterpretation of pattern cladistics presented here additionally proposes to take Bas Van Fraassen’s ‘constructive empiricism’ as a philosophical stance that could properly support such analysis of developmental-genetic data for systematic purposes. The latter suggestion is justified through a reappraisal of previous ideas developed by prominent pattern cladists (mainly, Colin Patterson), which concerned a scientifically efficient ‘observable/non-observable distinction’ linked to the conceptual pair ‘ontogeny and phylogeny’. Finally, I argue that a robust articulation of Antirealist alternatives in systematics may provide a rational basis for its disciplinary separation from evolutionary biology, as well as for a critical reconsideration of the proper role of certain Scientific Realist positions, currently popular in comparative biology. (shrink)
There are many things that philosophy of biology might be. But, given the existence of a professional philosophy of biology that is arguably a progressive research program and, as such, unrivaled, it makes sense to define philosophy of biology more narrowly than the totality of intersecting concerns biologists and philosophers (let alone other scholars) might have. The reasons for the success of the “new” philosophy of biology remain poorly understood. I reflect on (...) what Dutch and Flemish, and, more generally, European philosophers of biology could do to improve the situation of their discipline locally, regionally, and internationally, paying particular attention to the lessons to be learned from the “Science Wars.”. (shrink)
Philosophical discussion of molecular and developmental biology began in the late 1960s with the use of genetics as a test case for models of theory reduction. With this exception, the theory of natural selection remained the main focus of philosophy of biology until the late 1970s. It was controversies in evolutionary theory over punctuated equilibrium and adaptationism that first led philosophers to examine the concept of developmental constraint. Developmental biology also gained in prominence in the 1980s (...) as part of a broader interest in the new sciences of self-organization and complexity. The current literature in the philosophy of molecular and developmental biology has grown out of these earlier discussions under the influence of twenty years of rapid and exciting growth of empirical knowledge. Philosophers have examined the concepts of genetic information and genetic program, competing definitions of the gene itself and competing accounts of the role of the gene as a developmental cause. The debate over the relationship between development and evolution has been enriched by theories and results from the new field of 'evolutionary developmental biology'. Future developments seem likely to include an exchange of ideas with the philosophy of psychology, where debates over the concept of innateness have created an interest in genetics and development. (shrink)
Academia is subdivided into separate disciplines, most of which are quite discrete. In this review I trace the interactions between two of these disciplines: biology and philosophy of biology. I concentrate on those topics that have the most extensive biological content: function, species, systematics, selection, reduction and development. In the final section of this paper I touch briefly on those issues that biologists and philosophers have addressed that do not have much in the way of biological content.
The aim of this article is to clarify the meaning of a naturalistic position within philosophy of biology, against the background of an alternative view, founded on the basic insights of transcendental philosophy. It is argued that the apparently minimal and neutral constraints naturalism imposes on philosophy of science turn out to involve a quite heavily constraining metaphysics, due to the naturalism’s fundamental neglect of its own perspective. Because of its intrinsic sensitivity to perspectivity and historicity, (...) transcendental philosophy can avoid this type of hidden metaphysics. (shrink)
Elliott Sober is among the leading contemporary contributors to the philosophy of biology. He also has an exceptional ability to explain difficult ideas clearly. He is therefore very well equipped to provide an accessible yet state-of-the-art introduction to the philosophy of biology, and in most respects this optimistic prognosis is justified by the present volume. Focussing on evolutionary biology, Sober provides a general overview of evolutionary theory; a chapter on creationism that serves as a vehicle (...) for the discussion of the evidence for evolution; and chapters on fitness, the units of selection, adaptationism, systematics, and sociobiology. Sober displays a thorough mastery of both the biological issues and the recent philosophical controversies that have surrounded them, and the presentation is always lucid and free from unnecessary technicalities. Anyone not thoroughly conversant with contemporary discussions of evolutionary theory could learn from this book. (shrink)
This volume provides a broad overview of issues in the philosophy of behavioral biology, covering four main themes: genetic, developmental, evolutionary, and neurobiological explanations of behavior. It is both interdisciplinary and empirically informed in its approach, addressing philosophical issues that arise from recent scientific findings in biological research on human and non-human animal behavior. Accordingly, it includes papers by professional philosophers and philosophers of science, as well as practicing scientists. Much of the work in this volume builds on (...) presentations given at the international conference, “Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives”, held in 2008 at the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. The volume is intended to be of interest to a broad range of audiences, which includes philosophers (e.g., philosophers of mind, philosophers of biology, and metaethicists), as well as practicing scientists, such as biologists or psychologists whose interests relate to biological explanations of behavior. (shrink)
This paper analyses the actual meaning of a transcendental philosophy of biology, and does so by exploring and actualising the epistemological and metaphysical value of Kant's viewpoint on living systems. It finds inspiration in the Kantian idea of living systems intrinsically resisting objectification, but critically departs from Kant's philosophical solution in as far as it is based in a subjectivist dogmatism. It attempts to overcome this dogmatism, on the one hand by explicitly taking into account the conditions of (...) possibility at the side of the subject, and on the other hand by embedding both the living and the knowing system into an ontology of complexly organized dynamical systems. This paper fits into the transcendental perspective in acknowledging the need to analyse the conditions of knowability, prior to the contents of what is known. But it also contributes to an expansion and an actualisation of the issue of transcendentality itself by considering the conditions of possibility at the side of the object as intrinsically linked to the conditions of possibility at the side of the subject. (shrink)
This paper investigates the interface between philosophy and biochemistry. While it is problematic to justify the application of a particular philosophical model to biochemistry, it seems to be even more difficult to develop a special “Philosophy for Biochemistry”. Alternatively, philosophy can be used in biochemistry based on an alternative approach that involves an interdependent iteration process at a philosophical and (bio)chemical level (“Exeter Method”). This useful iteration method supplements more abstract approaches at the interface between philosophy (...) and natural sciences, and serves the biochemical community to systematically locate logical inconsistencies that arise from more theoretical aspects of the scientific process. Initial cycles of this iteration process identify the in vitro–in vivo problem as a central epistemological difficulty in biochemical research. While previous attempts have generated ad hoc rules to mend the gap between chemistry, biochemistry and biology in order to justify in vitro experimentation, this paper concludes that in vitro experimentation is heavily based on chemistry and cannot derive definite statements about biological processes. It can, however, generate results that will influence the direction of future biological research. The consequence is that the relationship between in vitro and in vivo experimentation is more of a psychological or social one than of a logical nature. Apart from highlighting these inconsistencies in biochemical thinking (“problem awareness”), the Exeter Method demands an improvement of biochemical terminology that contains separate and unequivocally defined terms for in vitro and in vivo systems. (shrink)
Jerry L. R. Chandler, a scientist from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies at George Mason University in USA and president of The Washington Evolutionary Systems Society (WESS), recently posted a query to the members of WESS and related persons in order to assemble a set of the fundamental questions that are guiding research and debate on emerging and evolving complex systems. "We seek to focus our inquiry on such questions that are fundamental to physical, chemical, biological, social and cultural (...) emergence," wrote Chandler. During its history of nearly two decades, the WESS members have debated a wide range of concepts and ideas related to evolutionary systems (see the volumes of Van de Vijver et al. 1998; Chandler & Van de Vijver 2000). As noted by Chandler, concomitantly a gradual shift in the public perceptions of science and scientific philosophies has occurred. Chandler asked how these perceptions will evolve in the next three to fifty years, and asked the members to make a short list of the fundamental open questions in one's field of inquiry. With the reservation that my comment was not so much an answer as an indication of my current interest, I answered Chandler that one big challenge I could think of is about how to integrate research into the origin and evolution of complex systems (physics, biophysics, molecular and evolutionary biology) with research into the semiotic nature and performance of such complex systems (biosemiotics, developmental psychology, consciousness studies, philosophy of mind, etc.). (shrink)
This paper focuses on a running dispute between Werner Callebaut’s naturalistic view and Filip Kolen and Gertrudis Van de Vijver’s transcendentalist view on the nature of philosophy of biology and the relation of this discipline to biological sciences. It is argued that, despite differences in opinion, both positions agree that philosophy of biology’s ultimate goal is to ‘move’ biology or at least be ‘meaningful’ to it. In order to make this goal clear and effective, more (...) is needed than a polarizing debate which hardly touches upon biology. Therefore, a redirection in discussion is suggested towards a reflection on the possibilities of incorporating philosophy in interdisciplinary research, and on finding concrete research questions which are of interest both to the philosopher and to the biologist. (shrink)
Philosophers have committed sins while studying science, it is said – philosophy of science focused on physics to the detriment of biology, reconstructed idealizations of scientific episodes rather than attending to historical details, and focused on theories and concepts to the detriment of experiments. Recent generations of philosophers of science have tried to atone for these sins, and by the 1980s the exculpation was in full swing. Marcel Weber’s Philosophy of Experimental Biology is a zenith mea (...) culpa for philosophy of science: it carefully describes several historical examples from twentieth century biology to address both ‘old’ philosophical topics, like reductionism, inference, and realism, and ‘new’ topics, like discovery, models, and norms. Biology, experiments, history – at last, philosophy of science, free of sin. (shrink)
The wide scope of philosophy of biology Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9619-0 Authors Joel D. Velasco, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, MC 101-40, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Links relating to the history and philosophy of biology, assembled by Roberta L. Millstein: reference works, societies, journals, historians and philosophers of biology with papers online, blogs, other resources in the history and philosophy of biology.
The first part of this essay outlines Cassirer’s philosophy of biology in the context of philosophy of science in the 20th century, giving an overview of Cassirer’s different writings on the philosophy of biology. The second part outlines his treatment of what he took to be the chief philosophical problem in the philosophy of biology: the conflict between mechanism and vitalism. Cassirer interpreted this conflict as a methodological debate, not a metaphysical problem. In (...) Cassirer’s eyes, each point of view is justified within specifics limits. The third part explicates Cassirer’s critique of Darwinism. Although Cassirer was critical of particular conceptions of Darwinian evolution, he did not reject evolution and, in fact, asserted that the concept of emergence was also of far-reaching importance in other fields besides biology. Part four offers concluding remarks about the importance of the philosophy of biology for Cassirer’s general philosophical orientation and for his conception of the tasks of philosophical theory. (shrink)
An influential position in the philosophy of biology claims that there are no biological laws, since any apparently biological generalization is either too accidental, fact-like or contingent to be named a law, or is simply reducible to physical laws that regulate electrical and chemical interactions taking place between merely physical systems. In the following I will stress a neglected aspect of the debate that emerges directly from the growing importance of mathematical models of biological phenomena. My main aim (...) is to defend, as well as reinforce, the view that there are indeed laws also in biology, and that their difference in stability, contingency or resilience with respect to physical laws is one of degrees, and not of kind . (shrink)
The question of whether biologists should continue to use the Linnaean hierarchy is a hotly debated issue. Invented before the introduction of evolutionary theory, Linnaeus's system of classifying organisms is based on outdated theoretical assumptions, and is thought to be unable to provide accurate biological classifications. Marc Ereshefsky argues that biologists should abandon the Linnaean system and adopt an alternative that is more in line with evolutionary theory. He traces the evolution of the Linnaean hierarchy from its introduction to the (...) present. He illustrates how the continued use of this system hampers our ability to classify the organic world, and then goes on to make specific recommendations for a post-Linnaean method of classification. Accessible to a wide range of readers by providing introductory chapters to the philosophy of classification and the taxonomy of biology, the book will interest both scholars and students of biology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Reasoning in Biological Discoveries brings together a series of essays which focus on one of the most heavily debated topics of scientific discovery today. Collected together and richly illustrated for the first time in this edition, Darden's essays represent a ground-breaking foray into one of the major problems facing scientists and philosophers of science. Divided into three sections, the essays focus on broad themes, notably historical and philosophical issues at play in discussions of biological mechanism; and the problem of developing (...) and refining reasoning strategies, including interfield relations and anomaly resolution. Published here for the first time, Darden summarizes the philosophy of discovery and elaborates on the role that mechanisms play in biological discovery. Throughout the book, she uses historical case studies to extract advisory reasoning strategies for discovery. Examples in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, immunology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology reveal the process of discovery in action. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive guide to the conceptual methodological, and epistemological problems of biology, and treats in depth the major developments in molecular biology and evolutionary theory that have transformed both biology and its philosophy in recent decades. At the same time the work is a sustained argument for a particular philosophy of biology that unifies disparate issues and offers a framework for expectations about the future directions of the life sciences. The argument (...) explores differences between autonomist and anti-autonomist views of biology. The result is a vindication of reductionism, but one that is unexpectedly hollow. For it leaves the exponents of the autonomy of biology from physical science with as much as their view of biology really requires - and rather more than the reductionist might comfortably concede. Professor Rosenberg shows how the problems of the philosophy of biology are interconnected and how their solutions are interdependent, However, this book focuses more on the direct concerns of biologists, rather than the traditional agenda of philosophers' problems about biology. This departure from earlier books on the subject results both in greater understanding and relevance of the philosophy of science to biology as a whole. (shrink)
After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists? With (...) clarity and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist. (shrink)
Joseph LaPorte argues that scientists have not discovered that sentences about natural kinds are true rather than false. Instead, scientists have found that these sentences were vaguely phrased in the language of earlier speakers and they have thus refined the meanings of the terms to validate the sentences. In the process, however, they have also changed the meaning of the terms. This book will appeal to students and professionals in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of biology (...) and the philosophy of language. (shrink)
Does natural selection act primarily on individual organisms, on groups, on genes, or on whole species? The question of levels of selection - on which biologists and philosophers have long disagreed - is central to evolutionary theory and to the philosophy of biology. Samir Okasha's comprehensive analysis gives a clear account of the philosophical issues at stake in the current debate.
This book offers an examination of functional explanation as it is used in biology and the social sciences, and focuses on the kinds of philosophical presuppositions that such explanations carry with them. It tackles such questions as: Why are some things explained functionally while others are not? What do the functional explanations tell us about how these objects are conceptualized? What do we commit ourselves to when we give and take functional explanations in the life sciences and the social (...) sciences? McLaughlin gives a critical review of the debate on functional explanation in the philosophy of science that has occurred over the last fifty years. He discusses the history of the philosophical question of teleology, and provides a comprehensive review of the post-war literature on functional explanation. What Functions Explain provides a sophisticated and detailed Aristotelian analysis of our concept of natural functions, and offers a positive contribution to the ongoing debate on the topic. (shrink)
John Beatty (1995) and Alexander Rosenberg (1994) have argued against the claim that there are laws in biology. Beatty's main reason is that evolution is a process full of contingency, but he also takes the existence of relative significance controversies in biology and the popularity of pluralistic approaches to a variety of evolutionary questions to be evidence for biology's lawlessness. Rosenberg's main argument appeals to the idea that biological properties supervene on large numbers of physical properties, but (...) he also develops case studies of biological controversies to defend his thesis that biology is best understood as an instrumental discipline. The present paper assesses their arguments. (shrink)