This chapter argues that scientific and philosophical progress in our understanding of the living world requires that we abandon a metaphysics of things in favour of one centred on processes. We identify three main empirical motivations for adopting a process ontology in biology: metabolic turnover, life cycles, and ecological interdependence. We show how taking a processual stance in the philosophy of biology enables us to ground existing critiques of essentialism, reductionism, and mechanicism, all of which have traditionally (...) been associated with substance ontology. We illustrate the consequences of embracing an ontology of processes in biology by considering some of its implications for physiology, genetics, evolution, and medicine. And we attempt to locate the subsequent chapters of the book in relation to the position we defend. (shrink)
We argue for a conception of ‘philosophy of biology before biology’ which is neither internalist study of biological doctrines, nor a reconstruction of the role philosophical concepts might have played in the constitution of biology as science, but rather a kind of interplay between metaphysical and empirical issues. This should have an impact both on our present understanding of philosophy of biology, given that it is necessarily conditioned by a very specific history and historiography, (...) and on our understanding of how biology as a science of life became unified. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The writings of Joseph Henry Woodger (1894–1981) are often taken to exemplify everything that was wrongheaded, misguided, and just plain wrong with early twentieth-century philosophy of biology. Over the years, commentators have said of Woodger: (a) that he was a fervent logical empiricist who tried to impose the explanatory gold standards of physics onto biology, (b) that his philosophical work was completely disconnected from biological science, (c) that he possessed no scientific or philosophical credentials, and (d) that (...) his work was disparaged – if not altogether ignored – by the biologists and philosophers of his era. In this paper, we provide the first systematic examination of Woodger’s oeuvre, and use it to demonstrate that the four preceding claims are false. We argue that Woodger’s ideas have exerted an important influence on biology and philosophy, and submit that the current consensus on his legacy stems from a highly selective reading of his works. By rehabilitating Woodger, we hope to show that there is no good reason to continue to disregard the numerous contributions to the philosophy of biology produced in the decades prior to the professionalization of the discipline. (shrink)
Comprised of essays by top scholars in the field, this volume offers concise overviews of philosophical issues raised by biology. Brings together a team of eminent scholars to explore the philosophical issues raised by biology Addresses traditional and emerging topics, spanning molecular biology and genetics, evolution, developmental biology, immunology, ecology, mind and behaviour, neuroscience, and experimentation Begins with a thorough introduction to the field Goes beyond previous treatments that focused only on evolution to give equal attention (...) to other areas, such as molecular and developmental biology Represents both an authoritative guide to philosophy of biology, and an accessible reference work for anyone seeking to learn about this rapidly-changing field. (shrink)
Symbiosis plays a fundamental role in contemporary biology, as well as in recent thinking in philosophy of biology. The discovery of the importance and universality of symbiotic associations has brought new light to old debates in the field, including issues about the concept of biological individuality. An important aspect of these debates has been the formulation of the hologenome concept of evolution, the notion that holobionts are units of natural selection in evolution. This review examines the philosophical (...) assumptions that underlie recent proposal of the hologenome concept of evolution, and traces those debates back in time to their historical origins, to the moment when the connection between the topics of symbiosis and biological individuality first caught the attention of biologists. The review is divided in two parts. The first part explores the historical origins of the connection between the notion of symbiosis and the concept of biological individuality, and emphasizes the role of A. de Bary, R. Pound, A. Schneider and C. Merezhkowsky in framing the debate. The second part examines the hologenome concept of evolution and explores four parallelisms between contemporary debates and the debates presented in the first part of the essay, arguing that the different debates raised by the hologenome concept were already present in the literature. I suggest that the novelty of the hologenome concept of evolution lies in the wider appreciation of the importance of symbiosis for maintaining life on Earth as we know it. Finally, I conclude by suggesting the importance of exploring the connections among contemporary biology, philosophy of biology and history of biology in order to gain a better understanding of contemporary biology. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr’s influence on philosophy of biology has given the field a particular perspective on evolution, phylogeny and life in general. Using debates about the tree of life as a guide, I show how Mayrian evolutionary biology excludes numerous forms of life and many important evolutionary processes. Hybridization and lateral gene transfer are two of these processes, and they occur frequently, with important outcomes in all domains of life. Eukaryotes appear to have a more tree-like history because (...) successful lateral events tend to occur among more closely related species, or at a lower frequency, than in prokaryotes, but this is a difference of degree rather than kind. Although the tree of life is especially problematic as a representation of the evolutionary history of prokaryotes, it can function more generally as an illustration of the limitations of a standard evolutionary perspective. Moreover, for philosophers, questions about the tree of life can be applied to the Mayrian inheritance in philosophy of biology. These questions make clear that the dichotomy of life Mayr suggested is based on too narrow a perspective. An alternative to this dichotomy is a multidimensional continuum in which different strategies of genetic exchange bestow greater adaptiveness and evolvability on prokaryotes and eukaryotes. (shrink)
This paper reviews Rosenberg’s and McShea’s textbook in philosophy of biology, entitled Philosophy of Biology. A Contemporary Introduction. I insist on the excellent quality of this textbook, then I turn to more critical comments, which deal mainly with what philosophy of biology is, and what it should be.
This collection of essays explores the metaphysical thesis that the living world is not made up of substantial particles or things, as has often been assumed, but is rather constituted by processes. The biological domain is organised as an interdependent hierarchy of processes, which are stabilised and actively maintained at different timescales. Even entities that intuitively appear to be paradigms of things, such as organisms, are actually better understood as processes. Unlike previous attempts to articulate processual views of biology, (...) which have tended to use Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychist metaphysics as a foundation, this book takes a naturalistic approach to metaphysics. It submits that the main motivations for replacing an ontology of substances with one of processes are to be found in the empirical findings of science. Biology provides compelling reasons for thinking that the living realm is fundamentally dynamic, and that the existence of things is always conditional on the existence of processes. The phenomenon of life cries out for theories that prioritise processes over things, and it suggests that the central explanandum of biology is not change but rather stability, or more precisely, stability attained through constant change. This edited volume brings together philosophers of science and metaphysicians interested in exploring the consequences of a processual philosophy of biology. The contributors draw on an extremely wide range of biological case studies, and employ a process perspective to cast new light on a number of traditional philosophical problems, such as identity, persistence, and individuality. (shrink)
Philosophy of biology before biology -/- Edited by Cécilia Bognon-Küss & Charles T. Wolfe -/- Table of contents -/- Cécilia Bognon-Küss & Charles T. Wolfe. Introduction -/- 1. Cécilia Bognon-Küss & Charles T. Wolfe. The idea of “philosophy of biology before biology”: a methodological provocation -/- Part I. FORM AND DEVELOPMENT -/- 2. Stéphane Schmitt. Buffon’s theories of generation and the changing dialectics of molds and molecules 3. Phillip Sloan. Metaphysics and “Vital” Materialism: The (...) Gabrielle Du Châtelet Circle and French Vitalism 4. John Zammito. The Philosophical Reception of C. F. Wolff’s Epigenesis in Germany, 1770-1790: Herder, Tetens and Kant -/- Part II. ORGANISM & ORGANIZATION 5. François Duchesneau. Senebier and the Advent of General Physiology 6. Tobias Cheung. Organization and Process. Living Systems Between Inner and Outer Worlds: Cuvier, Hufeland, Cabanis. -/- Part III. SYSTEMS 7. Georg Toepfer. Philosophy of Ecology Long Before Ecology: Kant’s Idea of an Organized System of Organized Beings 8. Ina Goy. "All is leaf". Goethe's plant philosophy and poetry 9. Snait Gissis. ‘Biology’, Lamarck, Lamarckisms -/- POSTSCRIPTS 1. Lynn Nyhart. A Historical Proposal Around Prepositions -/- 2. Philippe Huneman. Philosophy after Philosophy of Biology before Biology -/- Cécilia Bognon-Küss and Charles T. Wolfe. Conclusion . (shrink)
One of the most controversial and currently developed lines of research in philosophy of biology is that in which philosophers investigate pre-Darwinian assumptions that would still be present at the base of other philosophical sub-disciplines, such as ethics, epistemology, philosophy of language, etc. This type of inquiry, which I will call here “meta-philosophical interrogation,” can be thought as a complementary approach to the epistemological one, which allows us to broaden the critical approach of the discipline in question. (...) The objective of this article will be to analyze the characteristics of the “meta-philosophical interrogation” and to argue about its legitimacy as a way of inquiry proper to the philosophy of biology. (shrink)
Perhaps because of it implications for our understanding of human nature, recent philosophy of biology has seen what might be the most dramatic work in the philosophies of the ”special” sciences. This drama has centered on evolutionary theory, and in the second edition of this textbook, Elliott Sober introduces the reader to the most important issues of these developments. With a rare combination of technical sophistication and clarity of expression, Sober engages both the higher level of theory and (...) the direct implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. Above all, the reader will gain from this book a firm grasp of the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance. (shrink)
There are many things that philosophy of biology might be. But, given the existence of a professional philosophy of biology that is arguably a progressive research program and, as such, unrivaled, it makes sense to define philosophy of biology more narrowly than the totality of intersecting concerns biologists and philosophers (let alone other scholars) might have. The reasons for the success of the “new” philosophy of biology remain poorly understood. I reflect on (...) what Dutch and Flemish, and, more generally, European philosophers of biology could do to improve the situation of their discipline locally, regionally, and internationally, paying particular attention to the lessons to be learned from the “Science Wars.”. (shrink)
The biological sciences have always proven a fertile ground for philosophical analysis, one from which has grown a rich tradition stemming from Aristotle and flowering with Darwin. And although contemporary philosophy is increasingly becoming conceptually entwined with the study of the empirical sciences with the data of the latter now being regularly utilised in the establishment and defence of the frameworks of the former, a practice especially prominent in the philosophy of physics, the development of that tradition hasn’t (...) received the wider attention it so thoroughly deserves. This review will briefly introduce some recent significant topics of debate within the philosophy of biology, focusing on those whose metaphysical themes (in everything from composition to causation) are likely to be of wide-reaching, cross-disciplinary interest. (shrink)
The Royal Institute of Philosophy’s London lecture series for 2004–2005 offers a useful snapshot of the current state of philosophy of biology in Britain. With one or two exceptions the papers are not simply current research articles. The authors map out questions they feel need more research, analyse ongoing debates, or outline the program of their own previously published work. This presumably reflects the fact that the papers are based closely on public lectures. It also makes for (...) surprisingly easy and enjoyable reading in the context of such a volume. (shrink)
This is the first of two articles in which I reflect on “generalized Darwinism” as currently discussed in evolutionary economics. I approach evolutionary economics by the roundabouts of evolutionary epistemology and the philosophy of biology, and contrast evolutionary economists’ cautious generalizations of Darwinism with “imperialistic” proposals to unify the behavioral sciences. I then discuss the continued resistance to biological ideas in the social sciences, focusing on the issues of naturalism and teleology. In the companion article I assess generalized (...) Darwinism, concentrating on the roles of theory and model building, generative replication, and the relation between selection and self-organization; and I point to advances in biology that promise to be more fruitful as sources of inspiration for evolutionary economics than the project to generalize Darwinism in its current, “hardened Modern Synthesis” form. (shrink)
This is a highly welcome book that offers a fresh perspective on the philosophy of biology. It is of interest to both philosophers and biologists and to experienced readers as well as novices. The book is structured into four sections ‘Science’, ‘Biology’, ‘Microbes’ and ‘Humans’ and consists of a collection of articles written by John Dupré over the past few years.
Academia is subdivided into separate disciplines, most of which are quite discrete. In this review I trace the interactions between two of these disciplines: biology and philosophy of biology. I concentrate on those topics that have the most extensive biological content: function, species, systematics, selection, reduction and development. In the final section of this paper I touch briefly on those issues that biologists and philosophers have addressed that do not have much in the way of biological content.
What are the main debates in philosophy of biology today? The present book (part of the series Contemporary Debates in Philosophy) attempts to identify and discuss some of the most important of these. The endeavour is, I think, successful; the collection is a valuable contribution to the literature of philosophy of biology. Before discussing some particular lines of thought in the book, some brief remarks on its structure and organization: the book consists of ten parts, (...) each of which is centred around an important issue in philosophy of biology. Like other collections in this series, each part includes two papers arguing for opposing views concerning the central issue, together with postscripts where the authors have the opportunity to directly confront the arguments of the opposition. There is also considerable interaction between the authors in the main body of their papers, short introductions by the editors and lists with suggestions for further reading. This arrangement is the mai ... (shrink)
Ernst Mayr is a well-known biologist and philosopher in the twentieth century. Being a biologist, he is an important person in constructing the synthesis theory of evolution; being a philosopher, he has advocated a new philosophy, which, he claims, synthesizes the achievement of different biologies and physics, while at the same time getting rid of the influences of the traditional philosophy of science. In this essay, I will systematically investigate the main principles and the basic scheme of his (...) new philosophy. I find that Mayr’s new ideas of philosophy of biology can be summarized as the following five statements: The physical science is not the standard paradigm of the whole science; The historical narratives are more important than the explanation of laws; The explanation and the prediction are asymmetrical in life science; Concepts are more essential than laws in biology; There is no conflict between causality and teleonomy. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to clarify the meaning of a naturalistic position within philosophy of biology, against the background of an alternative view, founded on the basic insights of transcendental philosophy. It is argued that the apparently minimal and neutral constraints naturalism imposes on philosophy of science turn out to involve a quite heavily constraining metaphysics, due to the naturalism’s fundamental neglect of its own perspective. Because of its intrinsic sensitivity to perspectivity and historicity, (...) transcendental philosophy can avoid this type of hidden metaphysics. (shrink)
In metaphysics and philosophy of science, a significant movement is making inroads, under the banner of ‘neo-Aristotelianism’. This movement has so far been focused primarily on the physical sciences; but given that Aristotle the natural scientist was above all a biologist, it is worth asking what a neo-Aristotelian philosophy of biology would look like? In this paper, I begin a discussion on precisely that question. One interesting result is that the fact that biology is now permeated (...) by evolutionary ways of thinking is all but irrelevant to answering that question. Far more important is how central are concepts of organic form, function and development to biology. Given recent developments, there are reasons to think at least some areas of the biological sciences would welcome a neo-Aristotelian philosophy of biology - i.e. a critical exploration of these concepts from an Aristotelian perspective. (shrink)
In Insight, Bernard Lonergan provides, albeit schematically, a unique philosophy of biology which he takes as having “profound differences” with the world view presented by Darwin. These turn on Lonergan's idea of “schemes of recurrence” and of organisms as “solutions to the problem of living in an environment.” His lapidary prose requires some deciphering. I present the broad lines of his philosophy of biology and argue that Jean Piaget's structuralism can shed light on Lonergan's intentions in (...) virtue of his use of cybernetics and the isomorphism between biology and knowledge. In turn, Piaget draws on Waddington's restatement of epigenesis and I suggest that the result, “process structuralism,” is a viable alternative to the modern Darwinian synthesis. (shrink)
This paper focuses on a running dispute between Werner Callebaut’s naturalistic view and Filip Kolen and Gertrudis Van de Vijver’s transcendentalist view on the nature of philosophy of biology and the relation of this discipline to biological sciences. It is argued that, despite differences in opinion, both positions agree that philosophy of biology’s ultimate goal is to ‘move’ biology or at least be ‘meaningful’ to it. In order to make this goal clear and effective, more (...) is needed than a polarizing debate which hardly touches upon biology. Therefore, a redirection in discussion is suggested towards a reflection on the possibilities of incorporating philosophy in interdisciplinary research, and on finding concrete research questions which are of interest both to the philosopher and to the biologist. (shrink)
Despite the amount of work that has been produced on the subject over the years, the ‘transformation of cladistics’ is still a misunderstood episode in the history of comparative biology. Here, I analyze two outstanding, highly contrasting historiographic accounts on the matter, under the perspective of an influential dichotomy in the philosophy of science: the opposition between Scientific Realism and Empiricism. Placing special emphasis on the notion of ‘causal grounding’ of morphological characters in modern developmental biology’s theories, (...) I arrive at the conclusion that a ‘new transformation of cladistics’ is philosophically plausible. This ‘reformed’ understanding of ‘pattern cladistics’ entails retaining the interpretation of cladograms as ‘schemes of synapomorphies’, but in association to construing cladogram nodes as ‘developmental-genetic taxic homologies’, instead of ‘standard Darwinian ancestors’. The reinterpretation of pattern cladistics presented here additionally proposes to take Bas Van Fraassen’s ‘constructive empiricism’ as a philosophical stance that could properly support such analysis of developmental-genetic data for systematic purposes. The latter suggestion is justified through a reappraisal of previous ideas developed by prominent pattern cladists , which concerned a scientifically efficient ‘observable/non-observable distinction’ linked to the conceptual pair ‘ontogeny and phylogeny’. Finally, I argue that a robust articulation of Antirealist alternatives in systematics may provide a rational basis for its disciplinary separation from evolutionary biology, as well as for a critical reconsideration of the proper role of certain Scientific Realist positions, currently popular in comparative biology. (shrink)
In this paper I take evolutionary biology as an example to reflect on the role of philosophy and on the transformations that philosophy is constantly stimulated to do in its own approach when dealing with science. I consider that some intellectual movements within evolutionary biology (more specifically, the various calls for 'synthesis') express metascientific views, i.e., claims about 'what it is to do research' in evolutionary biology at different times. In the construction of metascientific views (...) I see a fundamental role to be played by philosophy, and, at the same time, a need to complement the philosophical methods with many more methods coming from other sciences. What leads philosophy out of itself is its own attention to scientific practice. My humble methodological suggestions are, at this stage, only meant to help us imagine metascientific views that are built with a more scientific, interdisciplinary approach, in order to attenuate partiality, subjectivity and impressionism in describing the scientific community. And yet, we should not be naïve and imbued with the myth of 'datadriven' research, especially in this field: other complex issues about metascientific views call for a serious, constant philosophical reflection on scientific practice. (shrink)
Melinda Fagan’s book on the philosophy of stem cell biology is a superb discussion of this exciting field of contemporary science, and the first book-length philosophical treatment of the subject. It contains a detailed and insightful examination of stem cell science, its structure, methods, and challenges.The book does not require any previous knowledge of stem cell biology—all the relevant scientific details and concepts, the central experimental procedures and results, as well as the historical development of the field, (...) are presented in as clear and accessible a way as possible. The presentation of the science starts in Chapter 1, with a general characterisation of stem cell biology, and continues throughout the book, with every chapter deepening and complicating the initial picture. Fagan’s lucid style makes even the more technical and detailed discussions of the research on human embryonic stem cells and on blood stem cells easy to follow.After the first in .. (shrink)
Drawing on work of the past decade, this volume brings together articles from the philosophy, history, and sociology of science, and many other branches of the biological sciences. The volume delves into the latest theoretical controversies as well as burning questions of contemporary social importance. The issues considered include the nature of evolutionary theory, biology and ethics, the challenge from religion, and the social implications of biology today (in particular the Human Genome Project).
Philosophy of Experimental Biology explores some central philosophical issues concerning scientific research in experimental biology, including genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, developmental biology, neurobiology, and microbiology. It seeks to make sense of the explanatory strategies, concepts, ways of reasoning, approaches to discovery and problem solving, tools, models and experimental systems deployed by scientific life science researchers and also integrates developments in historical scholarship, in particular the New Experimentalism. It concludes that historical explanations of scientific change that (...) are based on local laboratory practice need to be supplemented with an account of the epistemic norms and standards that are operative in science. This book should be of interest to philosophers and historians of science as well as to scientists. (shrink)
In addition to being one of the world's most influential philosophers, Aristotle can also be credited with the creation of both the science of biology and the philosophy of biology. He was the first thinker to treat the investigations of the living world as a distinct inquiry with its own special concepts and principles. This book focuses on a seminal event in the history of biology - Aristotle's delineation of a special branch of theoretical knowledge devoted (...) to the systematic investigation of animals. Aristotle approached the creation of zoology with the tools of subtle and systematic philosophies of nature and of science that were then carefully tailored to the investigation of animals. The papers collected in this volume, written by a pre-eminent figure in the field of Aristotle's philosophy and biology, examine Aristotle's approach to biological inquiry and explanation, his concepts of matter, form and kind, and his teleology. (shrink)