Biology and Philosophy 33 (1-2):6 (2018)

Aaron Novick
University of Washington
There is long-standing conflict between genealogical and developmental accounts of homology. This paper provides a general framework that shows that these accounts are compatible and clarifies precisely how they are related. According to this framework, understanding homology requires both an abstract genealogical account that unifies the application of the term to all types of characters used in phylogenetic systematics and locally enriched accounts that apply only to specific types of characters. The genealogical account serves this unifying role by relying on abstract notions of ‘descent’ and ‘character’. As a result, it takes for granted the existence of such characters. This requires theoretical justification that is provided by enriched accounts, which incorporate the details by which characters are inherited. These enriched accounts apply to limited domains, providing the needed theoretical justification for recognizing characters within that domain. Though connected to the genealogical account of homology in this way, enriched accounts include phenomena that fall outside the scope of the genealogical account. They therefore overlap, but are not nested within, the genealogical account. Developmental accounts of homology are to be understood as enriched accounts of body part homology. Once they are seen in this light, the conflict with the genealogical account vanishes. It is only by understanding the fine conceptual structure undergirding the many uses of the term ‘homology’ that we can understand how these uses hang together.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10539-018-9617-3
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,811
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

Phylogenetic Systematics.Willi Hennig, D. Dwight Davis & Rainer Zangerl - 1980 - Philosophy of Science 47 (3):499-502.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

‘Species’ Without Species.Aaron Novick & W. Ford Doolittle - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87:72-80.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Homology and the Origin of Correspondence.Ingo Brigandt - 2002 - Biology and Philosophy 17 (3):389–407.
The Causal Homology Concept.Jun Otsuka - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1128-1139.
Homology in Comparative, Molecular, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology: The Radiation of a Concept.Ingo Brigandt - 2003 - Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 299:9-17.
Homology Thinking.Marc Ereshefsky - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (3):381-400.
Homology and Heterochrony: The Evolutionary Embryologist Gavin Rylands de Beer (1899-1972).Ingo Brigandt - 2006 - Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 306:317–328.
Genealogical Self and a Confucian Way of Self-Making.Qingjie James Wang - 2002 - International Philosophical Quarterly 42 (1):93-112.
Homology and a Generative Theory of Biological Form.Brian Goodwin - 1993 - Acta Biotheoretica 41 (4):305-314.


Added to PP index

Total views
30 ( #370,455 of 2,463,231 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #179,116 of 2,463,231 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes