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The Legend of Order and Chaos: Communities and Early Community Ecology

In Kevin deLaplante, Bryson Browne & Kent A. Peacock (eds.), Philosophy of Ecology. Elsevier. pp. 49--108 (2011)

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  1. How political philosophies can help to discuss and differentiate theories in community ecology.Annette Voigt - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-25.
    This paper uses structural analogies to competing political philosophies of human society as a heuristic tool to differentiate between ecological theories and to bring out new aspects of apparently well-known classics of ecological scholarship. These two different areas of knowledge have in common that their objects are ‘societies’, i.e. units composed of individuals, and that contradictory and competing theories about these supra-individual units exist. The benefit of discussing ecological theories in terms of their analogies to political philosophies, in this case (...)
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  • Invasive Species and Natural Function in Ecology.Christopher Hunter Lean - 2020 - Synthese 1 (10):1-19.
    If ecological systems are functionally organised, they can possess functions or malfunctions. Natural function would provide justification for conservationists to act for the protection of current ecological arrangements and control the presence of populations that create ecosystem malfunctions. Invasive species are often thought to be malfunctional for ecosystems, so functional arrangement would provide an objective reason for their control. Unfortunately for this prospect, I argue no theory of function, which can support such normative conclusions, can be applied to large scale (...)
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  • The Myth of Frederic Clements’s Mutualistic Organicism, Or: On the Necessity to Distinguish Different Concepts of Organicism.Thomas Kirchhoff - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-27.
    In the theory and history of ecology, Frederic Clements’s theory of plant communities is usually presented as the historical prototype and a paradigmatic example of synecological organicism, characterised by the assumption that ecological communities are functionally integrated units of mutually dependent species. In this paper, I will object to this standard interpretation of Clements’s theory. Undoubtedly, Clements compares plant communities with organisms and calls them “complex organisms” and “superorganisms”. Further, he can indeed be regarded as a proponent of ecological organicism—provided (...)
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  • Theoretical Ecology as Etiological From the Start.Justin Donhauser - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 60:67-76.
    The world’s leading environmental advisory institutions look to ecological theory and research as an objective guide for policy and resource management decision-making. In addition to various theoretical merits of doing so, it is therefore crucially important to clear up confusions about ecology’s conceptual foundations and to make plain the basic workings of inferential methods used in the science. Through discussion of key moments in the genesis of the theoretical branch of ecology, this essay elucidates a general heuristic role of teleological (...)
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  • Ecological Interdependence Via Constraints.Christopher H. Eliot - 2018 - Philosophy of Science 85 (5):1115-1126.
    Although ecological theory has historically focused on negative interactions among populations, like competition and predation, ecologists and conservation biologists highlight the significance of interdependence. It is not clear, however, what is asserted in the causal hypothesis that one population is interdependent on others. This essay argues that the most informative causal regularities for representing dependencies are those connecting populations through environmental constraint variables. Interdependence among populations can thus be understood as constraint-mediated dependency relations connected in a circuit.
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  • Neither Superorganisms nor Mere Species Aggregates: Charles Elton’s Sociological Analogies and His Moderate Holism About Ecological Communities.Antoine C. Dussault - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-27.
    This paper analyzes community ecologist Charles Elton’s ideas on animal communities, and situates them with respect to the classical opposition between organicist–holistic and individualistic–reductionist ecological views drawn by many historians of ecology. It is argued that Elton espoused a moderate ecological holism, which drew a middle way between the stricter ecological holism advocated by organicist ecologists and the merely aggregationist views advocated by some of their opponents. It is also argued that Elton’s moderate ecological holism resonated with his preference for (...)
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  • Functional Ecology's Non-Selectionist Understanding of Function.Antoine C. Dussault - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 70:1-9.
    This paper reinforces the current consensus against the applicability of the selected effect theory of function in ecology. It does so by presenting an argument which, in contrast with the usual argument invoked in support of this consensus, is not based on claims about whether ecosystems are customary units of natural selection. Instead, the argument developed here is based on observations about the use of the function concept in functional ecology, and more specifically, research into the relationship between biodiversity and (...)
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  • A Persistence Enhancing Propensity Account of Ecological Function to Explain Ecosystem Evolution.Antoine C. Dussault & Frédéric Bouchard - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4).
    We argue that ecology in general and biodiversity and ecosystem function research in particular need an understanding of functions which is both ahistorical and evolutionarily grounded. A natural candidate in this context is Bigelow and Pargetter’s evolutionary forward-looking account which, like the causal role account, assigns functions to parts of integrated systems regardless of their past history, but supplements this with an evolutionary dimension that relates functions to their bearers’ ability to thrive and perpetuate themselves. While Bigelow and Pargetter’s account (...)
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  • Informative Ecological Models Without Ecological Forces.Justin Donhauser - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2721-2743.
    Sagoff (2016) criticizes widely used “theoretical” methods in ecology; arguing that those methods employ models that rely on problematic metaphysical assumptions and are therefore uninformative and useless for practical decision-making. In this paper, I show that Sagoff misconstrues how such model-based methods work in practice, that the main threads of his argument are problematic, and that his substantive conclusions are consequently unfounded. Along the way, I illuminate several ways the model-based inferential methods he criticizes can be, and have been, usefully (...)
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  • 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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  • Conservation Biology.Sahotra Sarkar - 2004 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Conservation biology emerged as an organized academic discipline in the United States in the 1980s though much of its theoretical framework was originally developed in Australia. Significant differences of approach in the two traditions were resolved in the late 1990s through the formulation of a consensus framework for the design and adaptive management of conservation area networks. This entry presents an outline of that framework along with a critical analysis of conceptual issues concerning the four theoretical problems that emerge from (...)
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  • Environmental Ethics.Roberta L. Millstein - 2013 - In K. Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer.
    A number of areas of biology raise questions about what is of value in the natural environment and how we ought to behave towards it: conservation biology, environmental science, and ecology, to name a few. Based on my experience teaching students from these and similar majors, I argue that the field of environmental ethics has much to teach these students. They come to me with pent-up questions and a feeling that more is needed to fully engage in their subjects, and (...)
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  • Debunking Myths About Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic.Roberta L. Millstein - 2018 - Biological Conservation 217:391–396.
    Aldo Leopold's land ethic has been extremely influential among people working in conservation biology, environmental ethics, and related fields. Others have abandoned the land ethic for purportedly being outdated or ethically untenable. Yet, both acceptance of the land ethic and rejection of the land ethic are often based on misunderstandings of Leopold's original meaning – misunderstandings that have become so entrenched as to have the status of myths. This essay seeks to identify and then debunk six myths that have grown (...)
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  • Ecological Historicity, Functional Goals, and Novelty in the Anthropocene.Justin Donhauser, Eric Desjardins & Gillian Barker - 2018 - Environmental Values.
    While many recognize that rigid historical and compositional goals are inadequate in a world where climate and other global systems are undergoing unprecedented changes, others contend that promoting ecosystem services and functions encourages practices that can ultimately lower the bar of ecological management. These worries are foregrounded in discussions about Novel Ecosystems (NEs); where some researchers and conservationists claim that NEs provide a license to trash nature as long as some ecosystem services are provided. This criticism arises from what we (...)
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  • Philosophical Issues in Ecology.James Justus - 2013 - In K. Kampourakis (ed.), Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. pp. 343–371.