A levels-of-selection approach to evolutionary individuality

Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):893-911 (2016)
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What changes when an evolutionary transition in individuality takes place? Many different answers have been given, in respect of different cases of actual transition, but some have suggested a general answer: that a major transition is a change in the extent to which selection acts at one hierarchical level rather than another. The current paper evaluates some different ways to develop this general answer as a way to characterise the property ‘evolutionary individuality’; and offers a justification of the option taken in Clarke :413–435, 2013)—to define evolutionary individuality in terms of an object’s capacity to undergo selection at its own level. In addition, I suggest a method by which the property can be measured and argue that a problem which is often considered to be fatal to that method—the problem of ‘cross-level by-products’—can be avoided.



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Ellen Clarke
University of Leeds

Citations of this work

The many faces of biological individuality.Thomas Pradeu - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):761-773.
Individual differences, uniqueness, and individuality in behavioural ecology.Rose Trappes - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 96 (C):18-26.
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Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2024 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2009 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Evolution and the levels of selection.Samir Okasha - 2006 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A Radical Solution to the Species Problem.Michael T. Ghiselin - 1974 - Systematic Zoology 23 (4):536–544.
A matter of individuality.David L. Hull - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (3):335-360.

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