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Profile: Brett Calcott (Australian National University)
  1. John Matthewson & Brett Calcott, Mechanistic Explanation Without Mechanisms.
    We provide an account of mechanistic representation and explanation that has several advantages over previous proposals. In our view, explaining mechanistically is not simply giving an explanation of a mechanism. Rather, an explanation is mechanistic because of particular relations that hold between a mechanical representation, or model, and the target of explanation. Under this interpretation, mechanistic explanation is possible even when the explanatory target is not a mechanism. We argue that taking this view is not only coherent and plausible, it (...)
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  2. Brett Calcott (forthcoming). Engineering and Evolvability. Biology and Philosophy:1-21.
    Comparing engineering to evolution typically involves adaptationist thinking, where well-designed artifacts are likened to well-adapted organisms, and the process of evolution is likened to the process of design. A quite different comparison is made when biologists focus on evolvability instead of adaptationism. Here, the idea is that complex integrated systems, whether evolved or engineered, share universal principles that affect the way they change over time. This shift from adaptationism to evolvability is a significant move for, as I argue, we can (...)
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  3. Brett Calcott (2013). Why How and Why Aren't Enough: More Problems with Mayr's Proximate-Ultimate Distinction. Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):767-780.
    Like Laland et al., I think Mayr’s distinction is problematic, but I identify a further problem with it. I argue that Mayr’s distinction is a false dichotomy, and obscures an important question about evolutionary change. I show how this question, once revealed, sheds light on some debates in evo-devo that Laland et al.’s analysis cannot, and suggest that it provides a different view about how future integration between biological disciplines might proceed.
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  4. Brett Calcott (2013). Why the Proximate–Ultimate Distinction Is Misleading, and Why It Matters for Understanding the Evolution of Cooperation. In Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott & Ben Fraser (eds.), Cooperation and its Evolution. MIT Press. 249.
  5. Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott & Ben Fraser (eds.) (2013). Cooperation and its Evolution. MIT Press.
    This collection reports on the latest research on an increasingly pivotal issue for evolutionary biology: cooperation. The chapters are written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and utilize research tools that range from empirical survey to conceptual modeling, reflecting the rich diversity of work in the field. They explore a wide taxonomic range, concentrating on bacteria, social insects, and, especially, humans. -/- Part I (“Agents and Environments”) investigates the connections of social cooperation in social organizations to the conditions that make (...)
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  6. Brett Calcott (2011). Wimsatt and the Robustness Family: Review of Wimsatt's Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):281-293.
    This review of Wimsatt’s book Re-engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings focuses on analysing his use of robustness, a central theme in the book. I outline a family of three distinct conceptions of robustness that appear in the book, and look at the different roles they play. I briefly examine what underwrites robustness, and suggest that further work is needed to clarify both the structure of robustness and the relation between it various conceptions.
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  7. Brett Calcott & Kim Sterelny (2011). Iiicomplexity and the Developmental Cycle. In Brett Calcott & Kim Sterelny (eds.), The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. Mit Press.
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  8. Brett Calcott & Kim Sterelny (eds.) (2011). The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. MIT Press.
    Drawing on recent advances in evolutionary biology, prominent scholars return to the question posed in a pathbreaking book: how evolution itself evolved.
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  9. John Matthewson & Brett Calcott (2011). Mechanistic Models of Population-Level Phenomena. Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):737-756.
    This paper is about mechanisms and models, and how they interact. In part, it is a response to recent discussion in philosophy of biology regarding whether natural selection is a mechanism. We suggest that this debate is indicative of a more general problem that occurs when scientists produce mechanistic models of populations and their behaviour. We can make sense of claims that there are mechanisms that drive population-level phenomena such as macroeconomics, natural selection, ecology, and epidemiology. But talk of mechanisms (...)
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  10. Brett Calcott (2009). Lineage Explanations: Explaining How Biological Mechanisms Change. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (1):51-78.
    This paper describes a pattern of explanation prevalent in the biological sciences that I call a ‘lineage explanation’. The aim of these explanations is to make plausible certain trajectories of change through phenotypic space. They do this by laying out a series of stages, where each stage shows how some mechanism worked, and the differences between each adjacent stage demonstrates how one mechanism, through minor modifications, could be changed into another. These explanations are important, for though it is widely accepted (...)
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  11. Brett Calcott (2009). Manfred D. Laubichler and Gerd B. Müller (Eds): Modeling Biology: Structures, Behaviors, Evolution (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology). Acta Biotheoretica 57 (3).
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  12. Brett Calcott (2008). Assessing the Fitness Landscape Revolution. Biology and Philosophy 23 (5):639-657.
    According to Pigliucci and Kaplan, there is a revolution underway in how we understand fitness landscapes. Recent models suggest that a perennial problem in these landscapes—how to get from one peak across a fitness valley to another peak—is, in fact, non-existent. In this paper I assess the structure and the extent of Pigliucci and Kaplan’s proposed revolution and argue for two points. First, I provide an alternative interpretation of what underwrites this revolution, motivated by some recent work on model-based science. (...)
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  13. Brett Calcott (2008). The Other Cooperation Problem: Generating Benefit. Biology and Philosophy 23 (2):179-203.
    Understanding how cooperation evolves is central to explaining some core features of our biological world. Many important evolutionary events, such as the arrival of multicellularity or the origins of eusociality, are cooperative ventures between formerly solitary individuals. Explanations of the evolution of cooperation have primarily involved showing how cooperation can be maintained in the face of free-riding individuals whose success gradually undermines cooperation. In this paper I argue that there is a second, distinct, and less well explored, problem of cooperation (...)
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