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Profile: Samir Okasha (Bristol University)
  1. Samir Okasha, Population Genetics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  2. Samir Okasha, Leplin on the Antirealist Argument for Underdetermination.
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  3. Henk de Regt, Samir Okasha & Stephan Hartmann (eds.) (forthcoming). Proceedings of EPSA09. Springer.
  4. Samir Okasha (2014). The Evolution of Bayesian Updating. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):745-757.
    An evolutionary basis for Bayesian rationality is suggested, by considering how natural selection would operate on an organism’s ‘policy’ for choosing an action depending on an environmental signal. It is shown that the evolutionarily optimal policy, as judged by the criterion of maximal expected reproductive output, is the policy that, for each signal, picks an action that maximizes conditional expected output given that signal. This suggests a possible route by which Bayes-rational creatures might have evolved.
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  5. Samir Okasha & Cédric Paternotte (2014). Adaptation, Fitness and the Selection-Optimality Links. Biology and Philosophy 29 (2):225-232.
    We critically examine a number of aspects of Grafen’s ‘formal Darwinism’ project. We argue that Grafen’s ‘selection-optimality’ links do not quite succeed in vindicating the working assumption made by behavioural ecologists and others—that selection will lead organisms to exhibit adaptive behaviour—since these links hold true even in the presence of strong genetic and developmental constraints. However we suggest that the selection-optimality links can profitably be viewed as constituting an axiomatic theory of fitness. Finally, we compare Grafen’s project with Fisher’s ‘fundamental (...)
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  6. Samir Okasha & Cedric Paternotte (2014). The Formal Darwinism Project: Editors' Introduction. Biology and Philosophy 29 (2):153-154.
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  7. Ellen Clarke & Samir Okasha (2013). 3 Species and Organisms: What Are the Problems? In Philippe Huneman & Frédéric Bouchard (eds.), From Groups to Individuals. Evolution and Emerging Individuality. Mit Press. 55.
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  8. Samir Okasha (2013). The Origins of Human Cooperation. Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):873-878.
    Bowles and Gintis argue that recent work in behavioural economics shows that humans have other-regarding preferences, i.e., are not purely self-interested. They seek to explain how these preferences may have evolved using a multi-level version of gene-culture coevolutionary theory. In this review essay I critically examine their main arguments.
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  9. Samir Okasha (2012). Social Justice, Genomic Justice and the Veil of Ignorance: Harsanyi Meets Mendel. Economics and Philosophy 28 (1):43-71.
    John Harsanyi and John Rawls both used the veil of ignorance thought experiment to study the problem of choosing between alternative social arrangements. With his , Harsanyi tried to show that the veil of ignorance argument leads inevitably to utilitarianism, an argument criticized by Sen, Weymark and others. A quite different use of the veil-of-ignorance concept is found in evolutionary biology. In the cell-division process called meiosis, in which sexually reproducing organisms produce gametes, the chromosome number is halved; when meiosis (...)
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  10. Samir Okasha (2012). Wynne-Edwards and the History of Group Selection. Metascience 21 (2):355-357.
    Wynne-Edwards and the history of group selection Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9613-6 Authors Samir Okasha, Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TB UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
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  11. Samir Okasha & Ken Binmore (eds.) (2012). Evolution and Rationality: Decisions, Cooperation and Strategic Behaviour. Cambridge University Press.
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  12. Samir Okasha & Cedric Paternotte (2012). Group Adaptation, Formal Darwinism and Contextual Analysis. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25 (6):1127–1139.
    We consider the question: under what circumstances can the concept of adaptation be applied to groups, rather than individuals? Gardner and Grafen (2009, J. Evol. Biol.22: 659–671) develop a novel approach to this question, building on Grafen's ‘formal Darwinism’ project, which defines adaptation in terms of links between evolutionary dynamics and optimization. They conclude that only clonal groups, and to a lesser extent groups in which reproductive competition is repressed, can be considered as adaptive units. We re-examine the conditions under (...)
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  13. Samir Okasha (2011). Biological Ontology and Hierarchical Organization: A Defence of Rank Freedom. In Brett Calcott & Kim Sterelny (eds.), The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. Mit Press. 53--64.
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  14. Samir Okasha (2011). Optimal Choice in the Face of Risk: Decision Theory Meets Evolution. Philosophy of Science 78 (1):83-104.
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  15. Samir Okasha (2011). Précis of Evolution and the Levels of Selection. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):212-220.
    The ‘levels of selection’ question is one of the most fundamental in evolutionary biology, for it arises directly from the logic of Darwinism. As is well-known, the principle of natural selection is entirely abstract; it says that any entities satisfying certain conditions will evolve by natural selection, whatever those entities are. (These conditions are: variability, associated fitness differences, and heritability (cf. Lewontin 1970).) This fact, when combined with the fact that the biological world is hierarchically structured, i.e. smaller biological units (...)
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  16. Samir Okasha (2011). Realismo e anti-realismo. Crítica.
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  17. Samir Okasha (2011). Reply to Sober and Waters. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):241-248.
    Elliott Sober and Ken Waters both raise interesting and difficult challenges for various aspects of the position I set out in Evolution and the Levels of the Selection. I am grateful to them for their penetrating criticisms of my work, and find myself in agreement with many of their points.
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  18. Michael Weisberg, Samir Okasha & Uskali Mäki (2011). Modeling in Biology and Economics. Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):613-615.
  19. Samir Okasha (2010). Evolution and Directionality: Lessons From Fisher's Fundamental Theorem. In. In Mauricio Suarez, Mauro Dorato & Miklos Redei (eds.), Epsa Philosophical Issues in the Sciences. Springer. 187--196.
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  20. Samir Okasha (2010). Replies to My Critics. Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):425-431.
    This paper contains replies to the reviews of my book by Steven Downes, Massimo Pigliucci and Deborah Shelton & Rick Michod.
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  21. Samir Okasha, Ken Binmore, Jonathan Grose & Cédric Paternotte (2010). Cooperation, Conflict, Sex and Bargaining. Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):257-267.
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  22. Samir Okasha (2009). Causation in Biology. In Helen Beebee, Peter Menzies & Christopher Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Causation. Oxford University Press. 707--725.
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  23. Samir Okasha (2009). Individuals, Groups, Fitness and Utility: Multi-Level Selection Meets Social Choice Theory. Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):561-584.
    In models of multi-level selection, the property of Darwinian fitness is attributed to entities at more than one level of the biological hierarchy, e.g. individuals and groups. However, the relation between individual and group fitness is a controversial matter. Theorists disagree about whether group fitness should always, or ever, be defined as total (or average) individual fitness. This paper tries to shed light on the issue by drawing on work in social choice theory, and pursuing an analogy between fitness and (...)
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  24. Samir Okasha (2008). Fisher's Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection—a Philosophical Analysis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 59 (3):319-351.
    This paper provides a philosophical analysis of the ongoing controversy surrounding R.A. Fisher's famous ‘fundamental theorem’ of natural selection. The difference between the ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ interpretations of the theorem is explained. I argue that proponents of the modern interpretation have captured Fisher's intended meaning correctly and shown that the theorem is mathematically correct, pace the traditional consensus. However, whether the theorem has any real biological significance remains an unresolved issue. I argue that the answer depends on whether we accept (...)
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  25. Samir Okasha, Biological Altruism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  26. Samir Okasha (2007). Rational Choice, Risk Aversion, and Evolution. Journal of Philosophy 104 (5):217-235.
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  27. Samir Okasha (2007). Re-Reading: Frank Jackson, 'Grue', Journal of Philosophy 5 (1975). Philosophical Papers 36 (3).
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  28. Samir Okasha (2007). Cultural Inheritance and Fisher's “Fundamental Theorem” of Natural Selection. Biological Theory 2 (3):290-299.
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  29. Samir Okasha (2007). What Does Goodman's 'Grue' Problem Really Show? Philosophical Papers 36 (3):483-502.
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  30. Samir Okasha (2006/2008). Evolution and the Levels of Selection. Oxford University Press.
    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.
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  31. Samir Okasha (2006). The Levels of Selection Debate: Philosophical Issues. Philosophy Compass 1 (1):74–85.
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  32. Samir Okasha (2005). Altruism, Group Selection and Correlated Interaction. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (4):703-725.
    Group selection is one acknowledged mechanism for the evolution of altruism. It is well known that for altruism to spread by natural selection, interactions must be correlated; that is, altruists must tend to associate with one another. But does group selection itself require correlated interactions? Two possible arguments for answering this question affirmatively are explored. The first is a bad argument, for it rests on a product/process confusion. The second is a more subtle argument, whose validity (or otherwise) turns on (...)
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  33. Samir Okasha (2005). Bayesianism and the Traditional Problem of Induction. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):181-194.
    Many philosophers argue that Bayesian epistemology cannot help us with the traditional Humean problem of induction. I argue that this view is partially but not wholly correct. It is true that Bayesianism does not solve Hume’s problem, in the way that the classical and logical theories of probability aimed to do. However I argue that in one important respect, Hume’s sceptical challenge cannot simply be transposed to a probabilistic context, where beliefs come in degrees, rather than being a yes/no matter.
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  34. Samir Okasha (2005). Does Hume's Argument Against Induction Rest on a Quantifier-Shift Fallacy? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (2):253–271.
    It is widely agreed that Hume's description of human inductive reasoning is inadequate. But many philosophers think that this inadequacy in no way affects the force of Hume's argument for the unjustifiability of inductive reasoning. I argue that this constellation of opinions contains a serious tension, given that Hume was not merely pointing out that induction is fallible. I then explore a recent diagnosis of where Hume's sceptical argument goes wrong, due to Elliott Sober. Sober argues that Hume committed a (...)
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  35. Samir Okasha (2005). Introduction. Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):931-932.
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  36. Samir Okasha (2005). Multilevel Selection and the Major Transitions in Evolution. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1013-1025.
    A number of recent biologists have used multi-level selection theory to help explain the major transitions in evolution. I argue that in doing so, they have shifted from a ‘synchronic’ to a ‘diachronic’ formulation of the levels of selection question. The implications of this shift in perspective are explored, in relation to an ambiguity in the meaning of multi-level selection. Though the ambiguity is well-known, it has never before been discussed in the context of the major transitions.
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  37. Samir Okasha (2005). Maynard Smith on the Levels of Selection Question. Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):989-1010.
    The levels of selection problem was central to Maynard Smith’s work throughout his career. This paper traces Maynard Smith’s views on the levels of selection, from his objections to group selection in the 1960s to his concern with the major evolutionary transitions in the 1990s. The relations between Maynard Smith’s position and those of Hamilton and G.C. Williams are explored, as is Maynard Smith’s dislike of the Price equation approach to multi-level selection. Maynard Smith’s account of the ‘core Darwinian principles’ (...)
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  38. Samir Okasha (2005). On Niche Construction and Extended Evolutionary Theory. Biology and Philosophy 20 (1):1-10.
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  39. Samir Okasha (2005). Review of William F. Harms, Information and Meaning in Evolutionary Processes. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (12).
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  40. Samir Okasha (2004). Multi-Level Selection, Covariance and Contextual Analysis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (3):481-504.
    Two alternative statistical approaches to modelling multi-level selection in nature, both found in the contemporary biological literature, are contrasted. The simple covariance approach partitions the total selection differential on a phenotypic character into within-group and between-group components, and identifies the change due to group selection with the latter. The contextual approach partitions the total selection differential into different components, using multivariate regression analysis. The two approaches have different implications for the question of what constitutes group selection and what does not. (...)
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  41. Samir Okasha (2004). The “Averaging Fallacy” and the Levels of Selection. Biology and Philosophy 19 (2):167-184.
    This paper compares two well-known arguments in the units of selection literature, one due to , the other due to . Both arguments concern the legitimacy of averaging fitness values across contexts and making inferences about the level of selection on that basis. The first three sections of the paper shows that the two arguments are incompatible if taken at face value, their apparent similarity notwithstanding. If we accept Sober and Lewontin's criterion for when averaging genic fitnesses across diploid genotypes (...)
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  42. Samir Okasha (2004). Wright on the Transmission of Support: A Bayesian Analysis. Analysis 64 (2):139–146.
  43. Noretta Koertge, Janet A. Kourany, Ronald N. Giere, Peter Gildenhuys, Thomas A. C. Reydon, Stéphanie Ruphy, Samir Okasha, Jaakko Hintikka & John Symons (2003). 10. Simulated Experiments: Methodology for a Virtual World Simulated Experiments: Methodology for a Virtual World (Pp. 105-125). [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 70 (1).
     
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  44. John D. Norton, Jonathan Y. Tsou, Alexander Bird, Merrilee H. Salmon, Samir Okasha, Amit Hagar, Jenann Ismael, Darrin W. Belousek & William L. Vanderburgh (2003). 10. Peddling Science: An Essay Review of Science Bought and Sold: Essays in the Economics of Science Peddling Science: An Essay Review of Science Bought and Sold: Essays in the Economics of Science (Pp. 833-839). [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 70 (4).
     
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  45. Samir Okasha (2003). Does the Concept of “Clade Selection” Make Sense? Philosophy of Science 70 (4):739-751.
    The idea that clades might be units of selection, defended by a number of biologists and philosophers of biology, is critically examined. I argue that only entities which reproduce, i.e. leave offspring, can be units of selection, and that a necessary condition of reproduction is that the offspring entity be able, in principle, to outlive its parental entity. Given that clades are monophlyetic by definition, it follows that clades do not reproduce, so it makes no sense to talk about a (...)
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  46. Samir Okasha (2003). Probabilistic Induction and Hume's Problem: Reply to Lange. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (212):419–424.
    Marc Lange has criticized my assertion that relative to a Bayesian conception of inductive reasoning, Hume's argument for inductive scepticism cannot be run. I reply that the way in which Lange suggests one should run the Humean argument in a Bayesian framework ignores the fact that in Bayesian models of learning from experience, the domain of an agent's probability measure is exogenously determined. I also show that Lange is incorrect to equate probability distributions which 'support inductive inferences' with probability distributions (...)
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  47. Samir Okasha (2003). Review of Philip Kitcher, In Mendel's Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003 (9).
  48. Samir Okasha (2003). Scepticism and its Sources. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):610–632.
    A number of recent philosophers, including Michael Williams, Barry Stroud and Donald Davidson, have argued that scepticism about the external world stems from the foundationalist assumption that sensory experience supplies the data for our beliefs about the world. In order to assess this thesis, I offer abrief characterisation of the logical form of sceptical arguments. I suggest that sceptical arguments rely on the idea that many of our beliefs about the world are ‘underdetermined’ by the evidence on which they are (...)
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  49. Samir Okasha (2003). The Concept of Group Heritability. Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):445-461.
    This paper investigates the role of the concept of group heritability in group selection theory, in relation to the well-known distinction between type 1 and type 2 group selection (GS1 and GS2). I argue that group heritability is required for the operation of GS1 but not GS2, despite what a number of authors have claimed. I offer a numerical example of the evolution of altruism in a multi-group population which demonstrates that a group heritability coefficient of zero is perfectly compatible (...)
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  50. Samir Okasha (2002). Darwinian Metaphysics: Species and the Question of Essentialism. Synthese 131 (2):191-213.
    Biologists and philosophers of biology typically regard essentialism about speciesas incompatible with modern Darwinian theory. Analytic metaphysicians such asKripke, Putnam and Wiggins, on the other hand, believe that their essentialist thesesare applicable to biological kinds. I explore this tension. I show that standard anti-essentialist considerations only show that species do not have intrinsic essential properties. I argue that while Putnam and Kripke do make assumptions that contradict received biological opinion, their model of natural kinds, suitably modified, is partially applicable to (...)
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