Sober (1992) has recently evaluated Brandon's (1982, 1990; see also 1985, 1988) use of Salmon's (1971) concept of screening-off in the philosophy of biology. He critiques three particular issues, each of which will be considered in this discussion.
In this paper I argue that we can best make sense of the practice of experimental evolutionary biology if we see it as investigating contingent, rather than lawlike, regularities. This understanding is contrasted with the experimental practice of certain areas of physics. However, this presents a problem for those who accept the Logical Positivist conception of law and its essential role in scientific explanation. I address this problem by arguing that the contingent regularities of evolutionary biology have a limited range (...) of nomic necessity and a limited range of explanatory power even though they lack the unlimited projectibility that has been seen by some as a hallmark of scientific laws. (shrink)
In this paper we first briefly review Bell's (1964, 1966) Theorem to see how it invalidates any deterministic "hidden variable" account of the apparent indeterminacy of quantum mechanics (QM). Then we show that quantum uncertainty, at the level of DNA mutations, can "percolate" up to have major populational effects. Interesting as this point may be it does not show any autonomous indeterminism of the evolutionary process. In the next two sections we investigate drift and natural selection as the locus of (...) autonomous biological indeterminacy. Here we conclude that the population-level indeterminacy of natural selection and drift are ultimately based on the assumption of a fundamental indeterminacy at the level of the lives and deaths of individual organisms. The following section examines this assumption and defends it from the determinists' attack. Then we show that, even if one rejects the assumption, there is still an important reason why one might think evolutionary theory (ET) is autonomously indeterministic. In the concluding section we contrast the arguments we have mounted against a deterministic hidden variable account of ET with the proof of the impossibility of such an account of QM. (shrink)
Richard Lewontin's (1970) early work on the units of selection initiated the conceptual and theoretical investigations that have led to the hierarchical perspective on selection that has reached near consensus status today. This paper explores other aspects of his work, work on what he termed continuity and quasi-independence, that connect to contemporary explorations of modularity in development and evolution. I characterize such modules and argue that they are the true units of selection in that they are what evolution by natural (...) selection individuates, selects among, and transforms. (shrink)
The concept of individuality as applied to species, an important advance in the philosophy of evolutionary biology, is nevertheless in need of refinement. Four important subparts of this concept must be recognized: spatial boundaries, temporal boundaries, integration, and cohesion. Not all species necessarily meet all of these. Two very different types of pluralism have been advocated with respect to species, only one of which is satisfactory. An often unrecognized distinction between grouping and ranking components of any species concept is necessary. (...) A phylogenetic species concept is advocated that uses a (monistic) grouping criterion of monophyly in a cladistic sense, and a (pluralistic) ranking criterion based on those causal processes that are most important in producing and maintaining lineages in a particular case. Such causal processes can include actual interbreeding, selective constraints, and developmental canalization. The widespread use of the biological species concept is flawed for two reasons: because of a failure to distinguish grouping from ranking criteria and because of an unwarranted emphasis on the importance of interbreeding as a universal causal factor controlling evolutionary diversification. The potential to interbreed is not in itself a process; it is instead a result of a diversity of processes which result in shared selective environments and common developmental programs. These types of processes act in both sexual and asexual organisms, thus the phylogenetic species concept can reflect an underlying unity that the biological species concept can not. (shrink)
Reciprocal altruism was originally formulated in terms of individual selection and most theorists continue to view it in this way. However, this interpretation of reciprocal altruism has been challenged by Sober and Wilson (1998). They argue that reciprocal altruism (as well as all other forms of altruism) evolves by the process of group selection. In this paper, we argue that the original interpretation of reciprocal altruism is the correct one. We accomplish this by arguing that if fitness attaches to (at (...) minimum) entire life cycles, then the kind of fitness exchanges needed to form the group-level in such situations is not available. Reciprocal altruism is thus a result of individual selection and when it evolves, it does so because it is individually advantageous. (shrink)
Two conditions for internal peace : absolutism and identification --Four approaches to Leviathan -- Outline of a new approach -- Reason, natural law, and absolutism -- The role of part 1 in Leviathan -- The metaphysical conception of human nature -- The state of nature -- The argument for absolutism -- Criteria for the identification of the sovereign -- Natural law -- Reason, revelation, and the interpretation of scripture -- Historical background : sola scriptura and biblical criticism -- Hobbes and (...) sola scriptura -- Sola scriptura and revelation -- Principles of biblical interpretation -- Metaphysics and eschatology -- Metaphysics : body and spirit -- The kingdom of God -- Eschatology -- Church and state -- Politics and the problem of double vision -- Politics and metaphysics -- Case A and the kingdom of God -- Case B and the argument for the identification of the true sovereign according to scripture -- The theological-philosophical argument for absolutism -- Hobbes and the kingdom of darkness -- The kingdom of darkness -- Misinterpretations of Scripture -- The false foundations of church tradition -- The kingdom of fairies -- The religious sincerity of Thomas Hobbes. (shrink)
Millstein [Bio. Philos. 17 (2002) 33] correctly identies a serious problem with the view that natural selection and random drift are not conceptually distinct. She offers a solution to this problem purely in terms of differences between the processes of selection and drift. I show that this solution does not work, that it leaves the vast majority of real biological cases uncategorized. However, I do think there is a solution to the problem she raises, and I offer it here. My (...) solution depends on solving the biological analogue of the reference class problem in probability theory and on the reality of individual fitnesses. (shrink)
Genic selectionists (Williams 1966; Dawkins 1976) defend the view that genes are the (unique) units of selection and that all evolutionary events can be adequately represented at the genic level. Pluralistic genic selectionists (Sterelny and Kitcher 1988; Waters 1991; Dawkins 1982) defend the weaker view that in many cases there are multiple equally adequate accounts of evolutionary events, but that always among the set of equally adequate representations will be one at the genic level. We describe a range of cases (...) all involving stable equilibria actively maintained by selection. In these cases genotypic models correctly show that selection is active at the equilibrium point. In contrast, the genic models have selection disappearing at equilibrium. For deterministic models this difference makes no difference. However, once drift is added in, the two sets of models diverge in their predicted evolutionary trajectories. Thus, contrary to received wisdom on this matter, the two sets of models are not empirically equivalent. Moreover, the genic models get the facts wrong. (shrink)
This note discusses the implications of an incorrect quotation that appeared in Ted H. Miller's article, 'Thomas Hobbes and the Constraints that Enable the Imitation of God', from Inquiry 42.2 (1999). Although surely inadvertent, this error is significant because the author uses it to support the thesis that Hobbes envisions philosophers imitating God by creating order out of chaos. The correct quotation from Leviathan does not support such a thesis, and the paragraph in Leviathan from which it is (...) taken actually runs counter to it. The correct quotation, taken in its context, and a passage from De Corpore cited by Professor Miller reveal that Hobbes encourages philosophers to imitate God by following the order of creation in contemplation. In other words, philosophers imitate God by imitating the creation. (shrink)
This paper is divided into three sections. In the first section we offer a retooling of some traditional concepts, namely icons and symbols, which allows us to describe an evolutionary continuum of communication systems. The second section consists of an argument from theoretical biology. In it we explore the advantages and disadvantages of phenotypic plasticity. We argue that a range of the conditions that selectively favor phenotypic plasticity also favor a nongenetic transmission system that would allow for the inheritance of (...) acquired characters. The first two sections are independent, the third depends on both of them. In it we offer an argument that human natural languages have just the features required of an ideal transmission mechanism under the conditions described in section 2. (shrink)
Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provided the first, and only, causal-mechanistic account of the existence of adaptations in nature. As such, it provided the first, and only, scientific alternative to the “argument from design”. That alone would account for its philosophical significance. But the theory also raises other philosophical questions not encountered in the study of the theories of physics. Unfortunately the concept of natural selection is intimately intertwined with the other basic concepts of evolutionary theory—such as the (...) concepts of fitness and adaptation —that are themselves philosophically controversial. Fortunately we can make considerable headway in getting clear on natural selection without solving all of those outstanding problems. (shrink)
In this paper Wimsatt's analysis of units of selection is taken as defining the units of selection question. A definition of levels of selection is offered and it is shown that the levels of selection question is quite different from the units of selection question. Some of the relations between units and levels are briefly explored. It is argued that the levels of selection question is the question relevant to explanatory concerns, and it is suggested that it is the question (...) relevant to ontological concerns. (shrink)
Kary (1990) defends the view that evolution by natural selection can be adequately explained in terms of a theory incorporating only a single level of selection. Here I point out some of the inherent inadequacies of such a theory.
Drift is to evolution as inertia is to Newtonian mechanics. Both are the "natural" or default states of the systems to which they apply. Both are governed by zero-force laws. The zero-force law in biology is stated here for the first time.
These days 'evolution' is usually defined as any change in the relative frequencies of genes in a population over time. This definition and some obvious alternatives are examined and rejected. The criticism of these definitions points out the need for a more holistic analysis of genotypes. I attempt such analysis by introducing measures of similarity of whole genotypes and then by grouping genotypes into similarity classes. Three sorts of measures of similarity are examined: a measure of structural similarity, a measure (...) of functional similarity and one of relational or historical similarity. The functional approach is shown to be superior and a definition of 'evolution' is suggested. (shrink)
In this paper the common association between ontological reductionism and a methodological position called 'Mechanism' is discussed. Three major points are argued for: (1) Mechanism is not to be identified with reductionism in any of its forms; in fact, mechanism leads to a non-reductionist ontology. (2) Biological methodology is thoroughly mechanistic. (3) Mechanism is compatible with at least one form of teleology. Along the way the nature and value of scientific explanations, some recent controversies in biology and why reductionism has (...) proven to be such an attractive position are discussed. (shrink)
The principle of natural selection is stated. It connects fitness values (actual reproductive success) with expected fitness values. The term 'adaptedness' is used for expected fitness values. The principle of natural selection explains differential fitness in terms of relative adaptedness. It is argued that this principle is absolutely central to Darwinian evolutionary theory. The empirical content of the principle of natural selection is examined. It is argued that the principle itself has no empirical biological content, but that the presuppositions of (...) its applicability are empirical. They form the empirical biological core of evolutionary theory. (shrink)
Christopher Hitchcocks discussion of my use of screening-off in analyzing the causal process of natural selection raises some interesting issues to which I am pleased to reply. The bulk of his article is devoted to some fairly general points in the theory of explanation. In particular, he questions whether or not my point that phenotype screens off genotype from reproductive success (in cases of organismic selection) supports my claim that the explanation of differential reproductive success should be in terms of (...) phenotypic differences, not genotypic differences. I will respond to this and show why the two supposed counter-examples to my position fail. (shrink)
While "A needs X" often calls for supplementation by the Y X is needed for, Thomson, Wiggins and Braybrooke have argued that there is a sense of "need" for which this is unnecessary. But Gricean conventions for conversation allow us to use ellipsis in a unified account of "need" while explaining the data Thomson and Wiggins appeal to: nondetatchment of bare needs from more fully specified ones, avoidance of serious harm as a default filling of the Y-slot, and the apparent (...) normativeness of some need-statements. Their detailed discussions also undermine the utility of demarcating a sense of "fundamental" need. (shrink)
McShea and Brandon propose that in the absence of constraint, biological diversity increases spontaneously. While heuristically useful, the thesis is unclear and of dubious empirical validity. The authors have no natural way to distinguish entropic decrease of diversity from the kind of increase that they are interested in. They make unsupported claims about how to explain dramatic increases of diversity and increases of functional complexity.
In their 2010 book, Biology’s First Law, D. McShea and R. Brandon present a principle that they call ‘‘ZFEL,’’ the zero force evolutionary law. ZFEL says (roughly) that when there are no evolutionary forces acting on a population, the population’s complexity (i.e., how diverse its member organisms are) will increase. Here we develop criticisms of ZFEL and describe a different law of evolution; it says that diversity and complexity do not change when there are no evolutionary causes.
I respond to Brandon's (2005) criticisms of my earlier (2002) essay. I argue that (1) biologists are inconsistent in their use of the terms 'selection' and 'drift' -- vacillating between 'process' and 'outcome' -- but that the process-oriented definitions I defend make better sense of the neutralist/selectionist debate; (2) Brandon's purported demonstration that there is no qualitative difference between drift and selection as processes begs the question against my account; and (3) biologists (e.g., Kimura) have argued for genuinely (...) neutral variants. Whether any such variants actually exist is an empirical question. However, the philosophical question at hand is conceptual, not empirical. (shrink)
Roger Sansom and Robert N. Brandon (eds.): Integrating Evolution and Development: From Theory to Practice Content Type Journal Article Pages 81-86 DOI 10.1007/s10441-010-9121-x Authors Thomas A. C. Reydon, Institute of Philosophy & Center for Philosophy and Ethics of Science (ZEWW), Leibniz Universität Hannover, Im Moore 21, 30167 Hannover, Germany Journal Acta Biotheoretica Online ISSN 1572-8358 Print ISSN 0001-5342 Journal Volume Volume 59 Journal Issue Volume 59, Number 1.
This book is a collection of essays by a leading philosopher of biology and spans his career over almost the last twenty years. Most of the topics that have been of concern to philosophers of biology in this period are touched on to some extent, and the collection of these essays in a convenient volume will certainly be welcomed by everyone working in this field. The essays are arranged chronologically, and divided into three sections. Although the chapters in the first (...) section have substantial interconnections, being involved with fundamental conceptual issues in evolutionary theory, on the whole there is not much attempt to tie the book into anything more than a sequence of independent essays. The later sections, moreover, cover a quite diverse range of topics. The whole is neither more nor less than the sum of the parts. For. (shrink)
In this paper, I aim to offer a clear explanation of what monadic domination, understood as a relation obtaining exclusively among monads, amounts to in the philosophy of Leibniz (and this insofar as monadic domination is conceived by Leibniz not to account for the substantial unity of composite substances). Central to my account is the Aristotelian notion of a hierarchy of activities, as well as a particular understanding of the relations that obtain among the perceptions of monads that stand in (...) relations of monadic domination and subordination. (shrink)
The connection between Spinoza and Nietzsche has often been remarked upon in the literature on the two thinkers.1 Not surprisingly, Nietzsche himself first noticed the similarity between his (earlier) thought and the thought of Spinoza, remarking to Overbeck in an oft-quoted postcard, “I have a precursor, and what a precursor!” He goes on to say, “Not only is his over-all tendency like mine – making knowledge the most powerful affect – but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize (...) myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me in precisely these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergences are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science.”2 One aspect of his own thought that Nietzsche does not list here, however, is his “doctrine” of “becoming who one is.” Is this an example of a point at which Spinoza and Nietzsche’s views separate? In this paper, I should like to consider whether or not Spinoza could plausibly be understood to have had a similar view; that is, I should like to examine whether or not the process for Spinoza of achieving happiness and beatitude can be seen principally as an instance of “becoming who one is.” There are, of course, some obvious and notorious difficulties in trying to understand what Nietzsche meant by the phrase “to become who one is.” After all, Nietzsche seems to deny both the existence of the self (as substance) and being in general, saying that there is only becoming. What, then, might this phrase mean? As this paper concerns principally the philosophy of Spinoza, I do not want to get too bogged down in the difficulties involved in interpreting Nietzsche; rather, I wish to follow without further argument the.. (shrink)
The exclusion problem is held to show that mental and physical events are identical by claiming that the denial of this identity is incompatible with the causal completeness of physics and the occurrence of mental causation. The problem relies for its motivation on the claim that overdetermination of physical effects by mental and physical causes is objectionable for a variety of reasons. In this paper, I consider four different definitions of ?overdetermination? and argue that, on each, overdetermination in all cases (...) of mental causation either does not occur or is unobjectionable, even when mental and physical events are non-identical. I therefore conclude that the exclusion problem cannot be used as a reason to accept that mental and physical events are identical unless some other definition of ?overdetermination? is provided. (shrink)
In his paper, “The Paradox of Forgiveness“ (this Journal 6 (2009), p. 365-393), Leo Zaibert defends the novel and interesting claim that to forgive is deliberately to refuse to punish. I argue that this is mistaken.
An essential property is a property that an object possesses in every possible world in which that object exists. An individual essence is a property (or set of properties) that an object possesses in every world in which that object exists, and that no other object possesses in any possible world. Call the claim that some artifacts possess an individual essence ‘artifactual essentialism’. I will argue that artifactual essentialism is true.
One of the positive arguments for the type-identity theory of mental states is an inference-to-the-best-explanation (IBE) argument, which purports to show that type-identity theory is likely true since it is the best explanation for the correlations between mental states and brain states that we find in the neurosciences. But given the methods of neuroscience, there are other relations besides identity that can explain such correlations. I illustrate some of these relations by examining the literature on the function of the hypothalamus (...) and its correlation with sensations of thirst. Given that there are relations besides identity that can explain such correlations, the type-identity theorist is left with a dilemma: either the correlations we consider are weak, in which case we do not have an IBE to an identity claim, or else the correlations we look at are maximally strong, in which case there are too few cases for the inductive part of the strategy to work. (shrink)
Conciliatory views about disagreement with oneâ€™s epistemic peers lead to a somewhat troubling skeptical conclusion: that often, when we know others disagree, we ought to be (perhaps much) less sure of our beliefs than we typically are. One might attempt to extend this skeptical conclusion by arguing that disagreement with merely possible epistemic agents should be epistemically significant to the same degree as disagreement with actual agents, and that, since for any belief we have, it is possible that someone should (...) disagree in the appropriate way, we ought to be much less sure of all of our beliefs than we typically are. In this paper, I identify what I take to be the main motivation for thinking that actual disagreement is epistemically significant and argue that it does not also motivate the epistemic significance of merely possible disagreement. (shrink)
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)
One of the more interesting topics debated by Leibniz and Locke and one that has received comparatively little critical commentary is the nature of essences and the classification of the natural world.1 This topic, moreover, is of tremendous importance, occupying a position at the intersection of the metaphysics of individual beings, modality, epistemology, and philosophy of language. And, while it goes back to Plato, who wondered if we could cut nature at its joints, as Nicholas Jolley has pointed out, the (...) debate between Leibniz and Locke has very clear similarities to the topic that has dominated the philosophy of language from the 1970s on: namely, the challenge mounted by Kripke, Kaplan, Putnam, and others against Russellian and Fregean descriptivist accounts of meaning. Yet, this topic is also, as Jolley writes, one of the “most elusive” in the debate between Leibniz and Locke.2 The purpose of this paper is to examine in detail Leibniz’s critique of Locke’s distinction between real and nominal essences. In doing so, I <span class='Hi'>hope</span> to show certain virtues in Leibniz’s account of metaphysics and philosophy of language that usually escape notice. While I wish to provide a general account of Leibniz’s disagreement with Locke, I also plan to focus on the nature of species and natural kinds. In my opinion, those who have treated this topic have not paid sufficient attention to Leibniz’s claims that “Essence is fundamentally nothing but the possibility of the thing under consideration” (A VI, vi, 293) and “essences are everlasting because they only concern.. (shrink)
The Subset View of realization, though it has some attractive advantages, also has several problems. In particular, there are five main problems that have emerged in the literature: Double-Counting, The Part/Whole Problem, The “No Addition of Being” Problem, The Problem of Projectibility, and the Problem of Spurious Kinds. Each is reviewed here, along with solutions (or partial solutions) to them. Taking these problems seriously constrains the form that a Subset view can take, and thus limits the kinds of relations that (...) can fulfill the realization relation on this view. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo) is a new and rapidly developing field of biology which focuses on questions in the intersection of evolution and development and has been seen by many as a potential synthesis of these two fields. This synthesis is the topic of the books reviewed here. Integrating Evolution and Development (edited by Roger Sansom and Robert Brandon), is a collection of papers on conceptual issues in Evo-Devo, while From Embryology to Evo-Devo (edited by Manfred Laubichler and Jane (...) Maienschein) is a history of the problem of the relations between ontogeny and phylogeny. (shrink)
This essay examines arguments offered in support of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) by Leibniz and his followers as well as Hume's critique of the PSR. It is shown that Leibniz has a defensible argument for the PSR, whereas the arguments of his self-proclaimed followers are weak. Thus, Hume's challenge is met by Leibniz, by Wolff and Baumgarten not so much.
Moral responsibility invariantism is the view that there is a single set of conditions for being morally responsible for an action (or omission or consequence of an act or omission) that applies in all cases. I defend this view against some recent arguments by Joshua Knobe and John Doris.
Recently, much philosophical discussion has centered on the best way to characterize the concepts of random drift and natural selection, and, in particular, whether selection and drift can be conceptually distinguished (Beatty, 1984; Brandon, 2005; Hodge, 1983, 1987; Millstein, 2002, 2005; Pfeifer, 2005; Shanahan, 1992; Stephens, 2004). These authors all contend, to a greater or lesser degree, that their concepts make sense of biological practice. So it should be instructive to see how the concepts of drift and selection were (...) distinguished by the disputants in a high-profile debate; debates such as these often force biologists to take a more philosophical turn, discussing the concepts at issue in greater detail than usual. Moreover, it is important to consider a debate where the disputants are actually trying to apply the models of population genetics to natural populations; only then can their proper interpretations become fully apparent. (Indeed, I contend that some of the philosophical confusion has arisen because authors have considered only the models themselves, and not the phenomena that the models are attempting to represent). A prime candidate for just such a case study is what Provine (1986) has termed “The Great Snail Debate,” that is, the debates over the highly polymorphic land snails Cepaea nemoralis and C. hortensis in the 1950s and early 1960s. These studies represent one of the best, if not the best, of the early attempts to demonstrate drift in natural populations. (shrink)
There is an assumption common in the philosophy of mind literature that kinds in our sciences—or causal kinds, at least—are individuated by the causal powers that objects have in virtue of the properties they instantiate. While this assumption might not be problematic by itself, some authors take the assumption to mean that falling under a kind and instantiating a property amount to the same thing. I call this assumption the “Property-Kind Individuation Principle”. A problem with this principle arises because there (...) are cases where we can sort objects by their possession of common causal powers, and yet those objects do not intuitively form a causal kind. In this short note, I discuss why the Property-Kind Individuation Principle is thus not a warranted metaphysical assumption. (shrink)
Beatty, Brandon, and Sober agree that biological generalizations, when contingent, do not qualify as laws. Their conclusion follows from a normative definition of law inherited from the Logical Empiricists. I suggest two additional approaches: paradigmatic and pragmatic. Only the pragmatic represents varying kinds and degrees of contingency and exposes the multiple relationships found among scientific generalizations. It emphasizes the function of laws in grounding expectation and promotes the evaluation of generalizations along continua of ontological and representational parameters. Stability of (...) conditions and strength of determination in nature govern projectibility. Accuracy, ontological level, simplicity, and manageability provide additional measures of usefulness. (shrink)