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Matt Barker
Concordia University
  1. When Traditional Essentialism Fails: Biological Natural Kinds.Robert A. Wilson, Matthew J. Barker & Ingo Brigandt - 2007 - Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2):189-215.
    Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion (...)
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  2. Well-Being, Disability, and Choosing Children.Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson - 2019 - Mind 128 (510):305-328.
    The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well-being and disability, and the second (...)
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  3.  73
    The Biological Notion of Individual.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?), speciation (are species individuals?), and (...)
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  4. Cohesion, Gene Flow, and the Nature of Species.Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (2):59-77.
    A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum of species cohesion and the explanans of gene flow that (...)
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  5. Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (1).
    The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...)
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  6.  59
    Eliminative Pluralism and Integrative Alternatives: The Case of Species.Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):657-681.
    Pluralisms of various sorts are popular in philosophy of science, including those that imply some scientific concept x should be eliminated from science in favour of a plurality of concepts x1, x2, … xn. This article focuses on influential and representative arguments for such eliminative pluralism about the concept species. The main conclusions are that these arguments fail, that all other extant arguments also fail, and that this reveals a quite general dilemma, one that poses a defeasible presumption against many (...)
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  7. Deep Conventionalism About Evolutionary Groups.Matthew J. Barker & Joel D. Velasco - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):971-982.
    We argue for a new conventionalism about many kinds of evolutionary groups, including clades, cohesive units, and populations. This rejects a consensus, which says that given any one of the many legitimate grouping concepts, only objective biological facts determine whether a collection is such a group. Surprisingly, being any one kind of evolutionary group typically depends on which of many incompatible values are taken by suppressed variables. This is a novel pluralism underlying most any one group concept, rather than a (...)
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  8. Specious intrinsicalism.Matthew J. Barker - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (1):73-91.
    Over the last 2,300 years or so, many philosophers have believed that species are individuated by essences that are at least in part intrinsic. Psychologists tell us most folks also believe this view. But most philosophers of biology have abandoned the view, in light of evolutionary conceptions of species. In defiance, Michael Devitt has attempted in this journal to resurrect a version of the view, which he calls Intrinsic Biological Essentialism. I show that his arguments for the resurrection fail, and (...)
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  9.  22
    Species and Other Evolving Lineages as Feedback Systems.Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    This paper proposes a new and testable view about the nature of species and other evolving lineages, according to which they are feedback systems. On this view, it is a mistake to think gene flow, niche sharing, and trait frequency similarities between populations are among variables that interact to cause some further downstream variable that distinguishes evolving lineages from each other, some sort of “species cohesion” for example. Instead, gene flow, niche sharing, similarities between populations, and other causal variables feed (...)
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  10.  51
    We Are Nearly Ready to Begin the Species Problem.Matthew J. Barker - forthcoming - In John S. Wilkins, Frank E. Zachos & Igor Ya Pavlinov (eds.), Species Problems and Beyond: Contemporary Issues in Philosophy and Practice. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.
    This paper isolates a hard, long-standing species problem: developing a comprehensive and exacting theory about the constitutive conditions of the species category, one that is accurate for most of the living world, and which vindicates the widespread view that the species category is of more theoretical import than categories such as genus, sub-species, paradivision, and stirp. The paper then uncovers flaws in several views that imply we have either already solved that hard species problem or dissolved it altogether – so-called (...)
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  11.  62
    Connecting Applied and Theoretical Bayesian Epistemology: Data Relevance, Pragmatics, and the Legal Case of Sally Clark.Matthew J. Barker - 2017 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (2):242-262.
    In this article applied and theoretical epistemologies benefit each other in a study of the British legal case of R. vs. Clark. Clark's first infant died at 11 weeks of age, in December 1996. About a year later, Clark had a second child. After that child died at eight weeks of age, Clark was tried for murdering both infants. Statisticians and philosophers have disputed how to apply Bayesian analyses to this case, and thereby arrived at different judgments about it. By (...)
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  12.  81
    The Empirical Inadequacy of Species Cohesion by Gene Flow.Matthew J. Barker - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):654-665.
    This paper brings needed clarity to the influential view that species are cohesive entities held together by gene flow, and then develops an empirical argument against that view: Neglected data suggest gene flow is neither necessary nor sufficient for species cohesion. Implications are discussed. ‡I'm grateful to Rob Wilson, Alex Rueger and Lindley Darden for important comments on earlier drafts, and to Joseph Nagel, Heather Proctor, Ken Bond, members of the DC History and Philosophy of Biology reading group, and audience (...)
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  13.  39
    From Cognition's Location to the Epistemology of its Nature.Matthew J. Barker - 2010 - Cognitive Systems Research 11 (357):366.
    One of the liveliest debates about cognition concerns whether our cognition sometimes extends beyond our brains and bodies. One party says Yes, another No. This paper shows that debate between these parties has been epistemologically confused and requires reorienting. Both parties frequently appeal to empirical considerations and to extra-empirical theoretical virtues to support claims about where cognition is. These things should constrain their claims, but cannot do all the work hoped. This is because of the overlooked fact, uncovered in this (...)
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  14. Essentialism.Matthew J. Barker - 2013 - In Byron Kaldis (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences.
    This ~4000 word essay introduces topics of essentialism, as they arise in social sciences. It distinguishes empirical (e.g., psychological) from philosophical studies of essentialisms, and both metaphysical and scientific essentialisms within philosophy. Essentialism issues in social science are shown to be more subtle and complex than often presumed.
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  15.  63
    Letter Regarding Canada's Bill C-7, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) and Disability.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - manuscript
    This letter was submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Government of Canada, on 29th January, 2021, as final debate over Bill C-7 was being undertaken in the Senate regarding MAiD and the strong opposition to the legislation expressed across the Canadian disability community. It draws on our individual and joint work on eugenics, well-being, and disability.
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  16. Biological Explanations, Realism, Ontology, and Categories.Matthew J. Barker - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):617-622.
    This is an extended review of John Dupré's _Processes of Life_, a collection of essays. It clarifies Dupré's concepts of reductionism and anti-reductionism, and critically examines his associated discussions of downward causation, and both the context sensitivity and multiple realization of categories. It reviews his naturalistic monism, and critically distinguishes between his realism about categories and constructivism about classification. Challenges to his process ontology are presented, as are arguments for his pluralism about scientific categories. None of his main conclusions are (...)
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  17. Science and Values.Matthew J. Barker - 2015 - Eugenics Archive.
    This short paper, written for a wide audience, introduces "science and values" topics as they have arisen in the context of eugenics. The paper especially focuses on the context of 20th century eugenics in western Canada, where eugenic legislation in two provinces was not repealed until the 1970s and thousands of people were sterilized without their consent. A framework for understanding science-value relationships within this context is discussed, and so too is recent relevant work in philosophy of science.
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  18.  10
    Environmentally Virtuous Agriculture: How and When External Goods and Humility Ethically Constrain (or Favour) Technology Use.Matthew J. Barker & Alana Lettner - 2017 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30 (2):287-309.
    This paper concerns virtue-based ethical principles that bear upon agricultural uses of technologies, such as GM crops and CRISPR crops. It does three things. First, it argues for a new type of virtue ethics approach to such cases. Typical virtue ethics principles are vague and unspecific. These are sometimes useful, but we show how to supplement them with more specific virtue ethics principles that are useful to people working in specific applied domains, where morally relevant domain-specific conditions recur. We do (...)
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  19.  1
    Philip Cafaro, Thoreau's Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue Reviewed By. [REVIEW]Matthew J. Barker - 2005 - Philosophy in Review 25 (2):89-92.