Is life different from the non-living? If so, how? And how, in that case, does biology as the study of living things differ from other sciences? These questions are traced through an exploration of episodes in the history of biology and philosophy. The book begins with Aristotle, then moves on to Descartes, comparing his position with that of Harvey. In the eighteenth century the authors consider Buffon and Kant. In the nineteenth century the authors examine the Cuvier-Geoffroy debate, pre-Darwinian geology (...) and natural theology, Darwin and the transition from Darwin to the revival of Mendelism. Two chapters deal with the evolutionary synthesis and such questions as the species problem, the reducibility or otherwise of biology to physics and chemistry, and the problem of biological explanation in terms of function and teleology. The final chapters reflect on the implications of the philosophy of biology for philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
Using the evolution of the stickleback family of subarctic fish as a touchstone, we explore the effect of new discoveries about regulatory genetics, developmental plasticity, and epigenetic inheritance on the conceptual foundations of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis. Identifying the creativity of natural selection as the hallmark of the Modern Synthesis, we show that since its inception its adherents have pursued a variety of research projects that at first seemed to conflict with its principles, but were accommodated. We situate challenges coming (...) from developmental biology in a dialectic between innovation and tradition, suggesting on the basis of past episodes that even if developmental plasticity and epigenetic inheritance are aligned with its principles the Modern Synthesis will be significantly affected. (shrink)
We trace the history of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, and of genetic Darwinism generally, with a view to showing why, even in its current versions, it can no longer serve as a general framework for evolutionary theory. The main reason is empirical. Genetical Darwinism cannot accommodate the role of development in many evolutionary processes. We go on to discuss two conceptual issues: whether natural selection can be the “creative factor” in a new, more general framework for evolutionary theorizing; and whether (...) in such a framework organisms must be conceived as self-organizing systems embedded in self-organizing ecological systems. (shrink)
The Darwinian concept of natural selection was conceived within a set of Newtonian background assumptions about systems dynamics. Mendelian genetics at first did not sit well with the gradualist assumptions of the Darwinian theory. Eventually, however, Mendelism and Darwinism were fused by reformulating natural selection in statistical terms. This reflected a shift to a more probabilistic set of background assumptions based upon Boltzmannian systems dynamics. Recent developments in molecular genetics and paleontology have put pressure on Darwinism once again. Current work (...) on self-organizing systems may provide a stimulus not only for increased problem solving within the Darwinian tradition, especially with respect to origins of life, developmental genetics, phylogenetic pattern, and energy-flow ecology, but for deeper understanding of the very phenomenon of natural selection itself. Since self-organizational phenomena depend deeply on stochastic processes, self-organizational systems dynamics advance the probability revolution. In our view, natural selection is an emergent phenomenon of physical and chemical selection. These developments suggest that natural selection may be grounded in physical law more deeply than is allowed by advocates of the autonomy of biology, while still making it possible to deny, with autonomists, that evolutionary explanations can be modeled in terms of a deductive relationship between laws and cases. We explore the relationship between, chance, self-organization, and selection as sources of order in biological systems in order to make these points. (shrink)
Conceptions of adaptation have varied in the history of genetic Darwinism depending on whether what is taken to be focal is the process of adaptation, adapted states of populations, or discrete adaptations in individual organisms. I argue that Theodosius Dobzhansky’s view of adaptation as a dynamical process contrasts with so-called “adaptationist” views of natural selection figured as “design-without-a-designer” of relatively discrete, enumerable adaptations. Correlated with these respectively process and product oriented approaches to adaptive natural selection are divergent pictures of organisms (...) themselves as developmental wholes or as “bundles” of adaptations. While even process versions of genetical Darwinism are insufficiently sensitive to the fact much of the variation on which adaptive selection works consists of changes in the timing, rate, or location of ontogenetic events, I argue that articulations of the Modern Synthesis influenced by Dobzhansky are more easily reconciled with the recent shift to evolutionary developmentalism than are versions that make discrete adaptations central. (shrink)
Recognition that biological systems are stabilized far from equilibrium by self-organizing, informed, autocatalytic cycles and structures that dissipate unusable energy and matter has led to recent attempts to reformulate evolutionary theory. We hold that such insights are consistent with the broad development of the Darwinian Tradition and with the concept of natural selection. Biological systems are selected that re not only more efficient than competitors but also enhance the integrity of the web of energetic relations in which they are embedded. (...) But the expansion of the informational phase space, upon which selection acts, is also guaranteed by the properties of open informational-energetic systems. This provides a directionality and irreversibility to evolutionary processes that are not reflected in current theory.For this thermodynamically-based program to progress, we believe that biological information should not be treated in isolation from energy flows, and that the ecological perspective must be given descriptive and explanatory primacy. Levels of the ecological hierarchy are relational parts of ecological systems in which there are stable, informed patterns of energy flow and entropic dissipation. Isomorphies between developmental patterns and ecological succession are revealing because they suggest that much of the encoded metabolic information in biological systems is internalized ecological information. The geneological hierarchy, to the extent that its information content reflects internalized ecological information, can therefore be redescribed as an ecological hierarchy. (shrink)
Aristotle’s biological teleology is rooted in an epigenetic account of reproduction. As such, it is best interpreted by consequence etiology. I support this claim by citing the capacity of consequence etiology’s key distinctions to explain Aristotle’s opposition to Empedocles. There are implications for the relation between ancient and modern biology. The analysis reveals that in an important respect Darwin’s account of adaptation is closer to Aristotle’s than to Empedocles’s. They both rely on consequence etiological considerations to evade attributing the purposiveness (...) of organisms to chance. Two implications follow: Darwinian explanations of adaptation are as teleological as Aristotle’s, albeit differently; and these differences show how deeply resistant Aristotle’s version of biological teleology is to descent from a common ancestor. (shrink)
In an era when philosophers of science are turning their attention from physics to biology, and it is still common to assume that Aristotle's biological essentialism is to blame for everything that went wrong until Darwin, it is of some importance to understand how completely discredited the received picture of Aristotelian biology has become among Aristotle scholars. Reading this superbly edited book is the best way to learn this lesson. Philosophers of biology, historians of philosophy, and indeed all who pass (...) out glib stories about Aristotle to undergraduates will have to repent many words after working their way through these mostly previously unpublished papers. (shrink)
John Reiss is a practicing evolutionary biologist (herpetology) who by his own account happened to be in the right place (Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology) at the right time (the 1980s) to hear echoes of the debate about sociobiology that had been raging there between E. O. Wilson and, on the other side, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin (xiv). Reiss is not concerned with sociobiology, at least in this book, but with the adaptationism that Gould and Lewontin saw in (...) the sociobiologists’ approach to cooperative behavior. At Harvard, Reiss was guided by Pere Alberch, in whose laboratory Gould’s stress on developmental constraints was being transformed into a now influential version of the Evo-devo movement (xiv, 327). On Alberch’s view, which Reiss accepts, variation in the rate, timing, placement, and intensity of gene products during the ontogenetic process, rather than mutation in structural genes, constitutes the proximate source of the phenotypic variation on which natural election works (327-29). Reiss does not think that Evo-devo, at least as he construes it, does away with natural selection. Rather, he seeks to identify the role played by selection in retaining or eliminating the variation generated in the developmental process. Selection, he argues, enables organisms, populations, species, and other lineages to maintain the presumptively adapted conditions of existence to which their very persistence already testifies. “Adaptedness,” Reiss writes, “is not a product of evolution; it is a condition for evolution” (22). He thinks that this fact, as he takes it to be, belies the adaptationist assumption that organisms are collections of independently optimal adaptations that arise by way of concerted spurts of directional selection. “It is a mistake,” he writes, “to atomize organisms and to explain each part as the solution of a problem raised by the environment” (295). (shrink)
454 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 34:3 JULY x996 Under Ebert appeals to Aristotle's Topics to show that the questioner in a dialectical discussion is not committed to views affirmed by the respondent.4 Yet to avoid the consequence that nothing in such a discussion can be attributed to Socrates , Ebert distinguishes between two kinds of questions: ques- tions that do not commit the questioner to a response and questions that do, such as, "Do you/we agree that p?" - (...) Ebert then shows that the above Pythagorean fallacies are stated only in questions - Yet at 76d~- 3 Socrates says "tblxokoy/ioa~tev" in reference to an important step of the recollection argument. Ebert can only bizarrely assert that while "We agree that p" commits Socrates to what is said, "We agreed that p" does not . In addition, while Ebert repeatedly maintains that we can "possibly" or "perhaps" infer something about Plato from Socra- tes' commitment to a view , he never explains why we should. One can quarrel with this provocative little book, but one should not ignore it, especially if one still reads the dialogues as straightforward presentations of Platonic doctrine. FRANCISCO J. GONZALEZ Skidmore College Eugene Garver, Aristotle's "Rhetoric": An Art of Character. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994. Pp. xxi + 325 . Cloth, $53.95- Paper, $18.95. This book is a.. (shrink)
I argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory has a rhetorical dimension and that rhetorical criticism plays a role in how evolutionary science acquires knowledge. I define what I mean by rhetoric by considering Darwin’s Origin. I use the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis to show how rhetoric conceived as situated and addressed argumentation enters into evolutionary theorizing. Finally, I argue that rhetorical criticism helps judge the success, limits, and failures of these theories.
This paper explores a possible connection between Aristotle’s defence of rhetoric as an art and his claim that its three kinds, deliberative, forensic and epideictic, necessarily take place in sites where citizens appear to one another as citizens. The argument is that only in such sites, and hence only in poleis, can speakers and audiences distinguish the internal norms of this, and indeed any other, art from external effects that, although they may be called rhetorical, are not artful or technikos (...) on Aristotle’s definition. That in making this argument Plato serves as Aristotle’s foil is suggested by allusions in the Rhetoric and other Aristotelian treatises to specific passages in Phaedrus and Statesman. The paper concludes by claiming that conditions for practising the art of rhetoric in the strict sense are as civic now as they were in classical antiquity. The media in which the art is practised may have multiplied, but when its civic nature is grasped the kinds into which Aristotle divides it appear not to have changed as much as might be thought. (shrink)
In his book The Biotech Century Jeremy Rifkin makes arguments about the dangers of market-driven genetic biotechnology in medical and agricultural contexts. Believing that Darwinism is too compromised by a competitive ethic to resist capitalist depredations of the genetic commons, and perhaps hoping to pick up anti-Darwinian allies, he turns for support to unorthodox non-Darwinian views of evolution. The Darwinian tradition, more closely examined, contains resources that might better serve his argument. The robust tradition associated with Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, (...) and others provides an alternative, scientifically sound basis for challenging the rhetoric of genetic reductionism. (shrink)
Discusses philosophy and the science of its lesson. Observation of the perspective that laws of nature exist in theories thereby quantifying statements capable of sustaining counterfactuals; Belief on the confirmation or falsification of theories by treating putative laws as premises of hypothetical argument; Aim of science to use fewer laws to explain greater facts; Similarity between prediction and explanation.