David Hull's natural philosophy of science

Biology and Philosophy 15 (3):301-310 (2000)
Throughout his career David Hull has sought to bring the philosophy of science into closer contact with science and especially with biological science (Hull 1969, 1997b). This effort has taken many forms. Sometimes it has meant ‘either explaining basic biology to philosophers or explaining basic philosophy to biologists’ (Hull 1996, p. 77). The first of these tasks, simple as it sounds, has been responsible for revolutionary changes. It is well known that traditional philosophy of science, modeled as it was on theoretical physics, proved inadequate when philosophers turned their attention to biological science. Biological examples have driven major revisions of accounts of reduction (Hull 1974; Schaffner 1993, Ch. 9), laws of nature (Beatty et al. 1997), theories (Lloyd 1988) and natural kinds (Wilson 1999, Part III). Nor is explaining basic philosophy to biologists a task to be looked down upon. It is useful, not because philosophy has all the answers, but because scientists must think about how to do science, that is doing philosophy of science and scientists frequently reinvent philosophical views with known flaws. Early in his career Hull found biological systematists in the grip of a crude operationalism about scientific concepts and said so in the pages of Systematic Zoology (Hull 1968). For the next thirty years, as biologists debated the nature of species and the correct principles of classification, Hull added a philosophical note at the same congresses and in the same journals (Hull 1970, 1976, 1980, 1997a, 1999).
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy of Biology   Evolutionary Biology
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1006764605049
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