Philosophy of biology is a vibrant and growing field. From initial roots in the metaphysics of species (Ghiselin, Hull), questions about whether biology has laws of nature akin to those of physics (Ruse, Hull), and discussions of teleology and function (Grene 1974, Brandon 1981), the field has grown since the 1970s to include a vast range of topics. Over the last few decades, philosophy has had an important impact on biology, partly through following the model of engagement with science that (...) was set by first-wave philosophers of biology like Marjorie Grene, Morton Beckner, David Hull, William Wimsatt and others. Today some parts of philosophy of biology are indistinguishable from theoretical biology. This is due in part to the impetus provided by second-wave philosophers of biology like James Griesemer, John Beatty, William Bechtel, Robert Brandon, Elisabeth Lloyd, and Elliott Sober. Indeed, philosophers have been instrumental in establishing theoretical biology as a field by collaborating with scientists, publishing in science journals, and by taking up conceptual questions at the heart of the biological enterprise. (shrink)
1. A Historical Look at Unity 2. Field Guide to Modern Concepts of Reduction and Unity 3. Kitcher's Revisionist Account of Unification 4. Critics of Unity 5. Integration Instead of Unity 6. Reduction via Mechanisms 7. Case Studies in Reduction and Unification across the Disciplines.
This article serves as an introduction to the laws-of-biology debate. After introducing the main issues in an introductory section, arguments for and against laws of biology are canvassed in Section 2. In Section 3, the debate is placed in wider epistemological context by engaging a group of scholars who have shifted the focus away from the question of whether there are laws of biology and toward offering good accounts of explanation(s) in the biological sciences. Section 4 introduces two relatively new (...) pieces of science – metabolic scaling theory and ecological stoichiometry – that have not been topics of much discussion by philosophers but are relevant because they have at least some of the hallmarks of laws of nature. Section 5 concludes by pointing out that discovering laws of biology, if any there be, will not necessarily answer the questions raised by the debate in the first place: we will still want to know how biology compares to other sciences, how to characterize its systems and processes, and whether accounts in terms of laws always or usually constitute adequate explanations in various sciences. (shrink)
Exploring whether clades can reproduce leads to new perspectives on general accounts of biological development and individuation. Here we apply James Griesemer's general account of reproduction to clades. Griesemer's account of reproduction includes a requirement for development, raising the question of whether clades may bemeaningfully said to develop. We offer two illustrative examples of what clade development might look like, though evaluating these examples proves difficult due to the paucity of general accounts of development. This difficulty, however, is instructive about (...) what a general account of development should look like and how it may usefully be applied to research problems (further suggesting a means for evaluating general accounts of development). Reproduction also requires individuation of parent and offspring. We argue that there is no special problem of individuating older and younger clades. The vagaries involved with determining when clades begin, mature, and end are precisely the same as those that arise when the same questions are asked of cells, organisms, or species. Though the question of clade reproduction and selection may still be open, the process of discovery presents new insights into old problems. (shrink)
Groups, individuals, and evolutionary restraints : the making of the contemporary debate over group selection Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s10539-011-9255-5 Authors Andrew Hamilton, Center for Biology and Society, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501 USA Christopher C. Dimond, Center for Biology and Society, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501 USA Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867.
Samir Okasha argues that clade selection is an incoherent concept, because the relation that constitutes clades is such that it renders parent-offspring (reproduction) relations between clades impossible. He reasons that since clades cannot reproduce, it is not coherent to speak of natural selection operating at the clade level. We argue, however, that when species-level lineages and clade-level lineages are treated consistently according to standard cladist commitments, clade reproduction is indeed possible and clade selection is coherent if certain conditions obtain. Despite (...) clade selection's logical coherence, however, we share some of Okasha's pessimism. Whether or not clades are a unit of selection is ultimately a question of empirical support and theoretical import. (shrink)
The world is an untidy place, and the sciences—all of them—reflect this. One source of this untidiness is the relationship between levels of organization. Reducing macrolevels to microlevels—explaining the former in terms of the latter—has met with successes but has never been the whole story. In the biological sciences, there has been much attention lately to the shortcomings of reductionism on the grounds that (i) it changes the subject rather than explaining, (ii) it leads to a myopically molecular view of (...) the biological world, and (iii) the behavior or behaviors of complex systems are often very poorly predicted based solely on their microproperties. It is just for these reasons that biologists of many stripes have called for a move away from reductionism and toward a new kind of biology for the 21st century. But what shape might this new biology take? (shrink)
The history of science often has difficulty connecting with science at the lab-bench level, raising questions about the value of history of science for science. This essay offers a case study from taxonomy in which lessons learned about particular failings of numerical taxonomy in the second half of the twentieth century bear on the new movement toward DNA barcoding. In particular, it argues that an unwillingness to deal with messy theoretical questions in both cases leads to important problems in the (...) theory and practice of identifying taxa. This argument makes use of scientific and historical considerations in a way that the authors hope leads to convincing conclusions about the history of taxonomy as well as about its present practice. (shrink)
Samir Okasha argues that clade selection is an incoherent concept, because the relation that constitutes clades is such that it renders parent-offspring (reproduction) relations between clades impossible. He reasons that since clades cannot reproduce, it is not coherent to speak of natural selection operating at the clade level. We argue, however, that when species-level lineages and clade-level lineages are treated consistently according to standard cladist commitments, clade reproduction is indeed possible and clade selection is coherent if certain conditions obtain. Despite (...) clade selection’s logical coherence, however, we share some of Okasha’s pessimism. Whether or not clades are a unit of selection is ultimately a question of empirical support and theoretical import, but we offer reasons to be skeptical about clade selection as a research programme. (shrink)
According to population biologist Richard Levins, every discipline has a “strategy of model building,” which involves implicit assumptions about epistemic goals and the types of abstractions and modeling approaches used. We will offer suggestions about how to model complex systems based upon a strategy focusing on independence in modeling. While there are many possible and desirable modeling strategies, we will contrast a model-independence-focused strategy with the more common modeling strategy of adding increasing levels of detail to a model. Levins calls (...) the latter approach a ‘brute force’ strategy of modeling, which can encounter problems as it attempts to add increasing details and predictive precision. In contrast, a model-independence-focused strategy, which we call a ‘pluralistic strategy,’ draws off of Levins’s use of an assemblage of multiple, simple and—critically—independent models of ecological systems in order to do predictive and explanatory analysis. We use the example of model analysis of levee failure during Hurricane Katrina to show what a pluralistic strategy looks like in engineering. Depending on one’s strategy, one can deliberately engineer the set of available models in order to have more independent and complementary models that will be more likely to be accurate. We offer advice on ways of making models independent as well as a set of epistemic goals for model development that different models can emphasize. (shrink)
Does history really matter? As a historian, and more importantly as a teacher of history, I have become convinced of the need to raise this question in my introductory classes. Too often this fundamental query is left for upper-division “theory” courses, or never broached at all. At a certain point historians, like most of us I imagine, stop asking why we do what we do and just get on with doing it. But with history, the question of why we engage (...) in it or whether it is worthwhile at all is absolutely vital. (shrink)
The present stage in the development of our society is marked by serious changes in social morality. The building of communism is entering a new stage. The man of the communist future is taking shape and being perfected before our eyes. Under these conditions, the Party - and this was emphasized at its Twenty-Fourth Congress - requires of a worker in the arts a thorough examination of contemporary life and of its hero to the full extent of his talent, and (...) demands that his ethical convictions and awareness of spirit be developed. Since this is the case, it is natural that literary criticism faces new, lofty tasks: tasks of analyzing literature in connection with those economic, societal, and moral processes which characterize social existence today. This was stated clearly both at the Party Congress and in the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU "On Criticism in Literature and the Arts" [O literaturno-khudozhestvennoi kritiki]. (shrink)
The liar paradox in its simplest form is the following argument. Consider the sentence 'this sentence is false'; call that the "liar sentence". Suppose the liar sentence is true. Then, since it says it is false, the liar sentence is false. So our supposition that it is true was mistaken, and the liar sentence must be false. But that's precisely what the liar sentence says, so it is true after all. The liar sentence is, therefore, both true and false---an absurd (...) result. ;Hans Herzberger has argued that several solutions to the Grelling paradox exhibit a common pattern: the very devices we introduce in order to avoid one version of the paradox are integral components of new versions of the paradox. Herzberger suggests that this is typical of semantic paradox in general. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of this dissertation examine several possible solutions to the liar---especially appeals to language levels and to contexts---and attempt to locate these possible solutions in Herzberger's pattern. ;There is some reason to think that this pattern is inescapable---that is, that the liar paradox is ultimately unsolvable---so the remaining two chapters of this dissertation explore what follows from the claim that it is unsolvable. Chapter 4 develops an argument from the claim that the liar is unsolvable to the claim that we cannot understand ourselves. Chapter 5, then, attempts to make sense of this circumstance by invoking a Nietzschean view of thinking and truth---perspectivalism, which holds that all thinking concerns interpretation and that there are no uninterpreted facts. Given some perspectivalist assumptions, we can see how it is inevitable that we will be unable to understand ourselves---and how we can nevetherless attain a certain limited kind of understanding. Perspectivalism also recommends a certain intellectual humility: if everything is interpretation, then no view of mine can be a comprehensive and accurate view of the way the world really is. This by itself is not a surprising claim; the surprising claim is that the liar paradox is the basis of it. (shrink)
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;It is the aim of this thesis to consider two accounts of 1st-person utterances that are often mistakenly conflated--viz. that involving the 'no-reference' view of 'I', and that of the non-assertoric thesis of avowals. The first account says that in a large range of 'psychological' uses, 'I' is not a referring expression; the second, that avowals of 1st-personal 'immediate' experience are primarily 'expressive' and not genuine assertions. ;The two (...) views are expressions of what I term 'Trojanism'. This viewpoint constitutes one side of a 'Homeric Opposition in the Metaphysics of Experience', and has been endorsed by Wittgenstein throughout his writings; it has received recent expression in Professor Anscombe's article 'The First Person'. I explore the ideas of these writers in some depth, and consider to what extent they stand up to criticism by such notable 'Greek' contenders as P. F. Strawson and Gareth Evans. ;I first give neutral accounts of the key-concepts on which subsequent arguments are based. These are the immunity to error through misidentification of certain 1st-person utterances, the guaranteed reference of 'I', avowal, and the Generality Constraint. I consider the close relation of Trojanism to solipsism and behaviourism, and then assess the effectiveness of two arguments for that viewpoint--Anscombe's Tank Argument and the argument from IEM. Though each is appealing, neither is decisive; to assess Trojanism properly we need to look at the non-assertoric thesis of avowals, which alone affords the prospect of a resolution of the really intractable problems of the self generated by Cartesianism. ;In the course of the latter assessment I consider the different varieties of avowal, broadening the discussion beyond the over-used example 'I am in pain'. I explore Wittgenstein's notion of 'expression', and discuss how this notion may help to explain the authority a subject possesses on his mental states as expressed in avowals. My conclusion is that an expressive account of avowals can provide a satisfactory counter to the Cartesian account of authority without our needing recourse to a non-assertoric or even to a non-cognitive thesis. ;Discussion of self-consciousness is implicit in discussion of the Homeric Opposition, but there is in addition a short chapter on the concept itself. (shrink)