Woodger, positivism, and the evolutionary synthesis

Biology and Philosophy 15 (4):535-551 (2000)
In Unifying Biology, Smocovitis offers a series of claimsregarding the relationship between key actors in the synthesisperiod of evolutionary studies and positivism, especially claimsentailing Joseph Henry Woodger and the Unity of Science Movement.This commentary examines Woodger''s possible relevance to key synthesis actors and challenges Smocovitis'' arguments for theexplanatory relevance of logical positivism, and positivism moregenerally, to synthesis history. Under scrutiny, these arguments areshort on evidence and subject to substantial conceptual confusion.Though plausible, Smocovitis'' minimal interpretation – that somegeneralised form of Comtean positivism had a role in synthesishistory – requires more of an evidential basis and must engageexisting scholarship on epistemic reforms in the biological sciencesprior to the synthesis period. Smocovitis is right to investigateepistemology in the synthesis period of evolutionary studies and tolook for links to wider changes in science and philosophy. However,in its present form, Unifying Biology fails to support herbasic interpretation.
Keywords evolutionary synthesis  Joseph Henry Woodger  positivism
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1006713702749
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Rethinking Woodger's Legacy in the Philosophy of Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson & Richard Gawne - 2014 - Journal of the History of Biology 47 (2):243-292.
Darwinism After Mendelism: The Case of Sewall Wright’s Intellectual Synthesis in His Shifting Balance Theory of Evolution.Jonathan Hodge - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (1):30-39.

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