Authors
Daniel J. Nicholson
George Mason University
Abstract
Philosophy of biology is often said to have emerged in the last third of the twentieth century. Prior to this time, it has been alleged that the only authors who engaged philosophically with the life sciences were either logical empiricists who sought to impose the explanatory ideals of the physical sciences onto biology, or vitalists who invoked mystical agencies in an attempt to ward off the threat of physicochemical reduction. These schools paid little attention to actual biological science, and as a result philosophy of biology languished in a state of futility for much of the twentieth century. The situation, we are told, only began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a new generation of researchers began to focus on problems internal to biology, leading to the consolidation of the discipline. In this paper we challenge this widely accepted narrative of the history of philosophy of biology. We do so by arguing that the most important tradition within early twentieth-century philosophy of biology was neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but the organicist movement that flourished between the First and Second World Wars. We show that the organicist corpus is thematically and methodologically continuous with the contemporary literature in order to discredit the view that early work in the philosophy of biology was unproductive, and we emphasize the desirability of integrating the historical and contemporary conversations into a single, unified discourse.
Keywords History of philosophy of biology   Logical empiricism   Vitalism   Organicism   Theoretical biology
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s40656-015-0085-7
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Biological Science.Alexander Rosenberg - 1985 - Cambridge University Press.
The Philosophy of Biology.David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.) - 1973 - London: Oxford University Press.
Philosophy of Biological Science.David L. Hull - 1974 - Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.
Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist.Ernst Mayr - 1988 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

View all 139 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Creativity of Natural Selection? Part II: The Synthesis and Since.John Beatty - 2019 - Journal of the History of Biology 52 (4):705-731.

View all 26 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism in Late Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Biology: The Importance of Historical Context.Garland E. Allen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):261-283.
Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism in Late Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Biology: The Importance of Historical Context.Garland E. Allen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):261-283.
Holism, Organicism and the Risk of Biochauvinism.Charles T. Wolfe - 2014 - Verifiche: Rivista Trimestrale di Scienze Umane 43 (1-3):39-57.
Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism in Late Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Biology: The Importance of Historical Context.Garland E. Allen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):261-283.
Whence Philosophy of Biology?Jason M. Byron - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (3):409-422.
Philosophy of Biology.Emanuele Serrelli - 2016 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Again, What the Philosophy of Biology is Not.Werner Callebaut - 2005 - Acta Biotheoretica 53 (2):93-122.
Reflections on Ernst Mayr's This is Biology.John C. Greene - 1999 - Biology and Philosophy 14 (1):103-116.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2017-10-17

Total views
374 ( #22,931 of 2,445,551 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
84 ( #7,543 of 2,445,551 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes