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Philosophy of Biology

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  1. Constructivism, Intersubjectivity, Provability, and Triviality.Andrea Guardo - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (4):515-527.
    Sharon Street defines her constructivism about practical reasons as the view that whether something is a reason to do a certain thing for a given agent depends on that agent’s normative point of view. However, Street has also maintained that there is a judgment about practical reasons which is true relative to every possible normative point of view, namely constructivism itself. I show that the latter thesis is inconsistent with Street’s own constructivism about epistemic reasons and discuss some consequences of (...)
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  • More on How and Why: Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited.Kevin N. Laland, John Odling-Smee, William Hoppitt & Tobias Uller - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):719-745.
    In 1961, Ernst Mayr published a highly influential article on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr argued that proximate causes (e.g. physiological factors) and ultimate causes (e.g. natural selection) addressed distinct ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and were not competing alternatives. That distinction retains explanatory value today. However, the adoption of Mayr’s heuristic led to the widespread belief that ontogenetic processes are irrelevant to evolutionary questions, a belief that has (1) hindered (...)
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  • Handbook of Evolutionary Thinking in the Sciences.Thomas Heams, Philippe Huneman, Guillaume Lecointre & Marc Silberstein (eds.) - 2015 - Springer.
    The Darwinian theory of evolution is itself evolving and this book presents the details of the core of modern Darwinism and its latest developmental directions. The authors present current scientific work addressing theoretical problems and challenges in four sections, beginning with the concepts of evolution theory, its processes of variation, heredity, selection, adaptation and function, and its patterns of character, species, descent and life. The second part of this book scrutinizes Darwinism in the philosophy of science and its usefulness in (...)
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  • Essay Review:“What Made Ernst Unique?”.Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis - 2005 - Journal of the History of Biology 38 (3):609-614.
  • Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry Into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences.P.-A. Braillard and C. Malaterre (ed.) - 2015 - Springer.
  • The Place of Probability in Science: In Honor of Ellery Eells (1953-2006).Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.) - 2010 - Springer.
  • Dual Causality and the Autonomy of Biology.Walter J. Bock - 2017 - Acta Biotheoretica 65 (1):63-79.
    Ernst Mayr’s concept of dual causality in biology with the two forms of causes continues to provide an essential foundation for the philosophy of biology. They are equivalent to functional and evolutionary causes with both required for full biological explanations. The natural sciences can be classified into nomological, historical nomological and historical dual causality, the last including only biology. Because evolutionary causality is unique to biology and must be included for all complete biological explanations, biology is autonomous from the physical (...)
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  • Disentangling the Vitalism–Emergentism Knot.Olivier Sartenaer - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (1):73-88.
    Starting with the observation that there exist contradictory claims in the literature about the relationship between vitalism and emergentism—be it one of inclusion or, on the contrary, exclusion–, this paper aims at disentangling the vitalism–emergentism knot. To this purpose, after having described a particular form of emergentism, namely Lloyd Morgan’s emergent evolutionism, I develop a conceptual analysis on the basis of a distinction between varieties of monism and pluralism. This analysis allows me to identify and characterize several forms of vitalism (...)
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  • Truth, Selection and Scientific Inquiry.Stephen M. Downes - 2000 - Biology and Philosophy 15 (3):425-442.
    In this paper I examine various ways in whichphilosophers have made connections between truth andnatural selection. I introduce several versions ofthe view that mechanisms of true belief generationarise as a result of natural selection and argue thatthey fail to establish a connection between truth andnatural selection. I then turn to scientific truthsand argue that evolutionary accounts of the origin ofscientific truth generation mechanisms also fail. Iintroduce David Hull's selectionist model ofscientific development and argue that his account ofscientific success does not (...)
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  • Naturalism, Reduction and Normativity: Pressing From Below.John F. Post - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (1):1–27.
    David Papineau’s model of scientific reduction, contrary to his intent, appears to enable a naturalist realist account of the primitive normativity involved in a biological adaptation’s being “for” this or that (say the eye’s being for seeing). By disabling the crucial anti-naturalist arguments against any such reduction, his model would support a cognitivist semantics for normative claims like “The heart is for pumping blood, and defective if it doesn’t.” No moral claim would follow, certainly. Nonetheless, by thus “pressing from below” (...)
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  • Interpretations of Probability.Alan Hájek - 2007 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Evolutionary Psychology.Stephen M. Downes - 2014 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This is an updated version of my Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Evolutionary Psychology. The 2018 version contains a new section on Human Nature as well as some new material on recent developments in Evolutionary Psychology.
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  • An Evolutionary Sceptical Challenge to Scientific Realism.Christophe de Ray - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (3):969-989.
    Evolutionary scepticism holds that the evolutionary account of the origins of the human cognitive apparatus has sceptical implications for at least some of our beliefs. A common target of evolutionary scepticism is moral realism. Scientific realism, on the other hand, is much less frequently targeted, though the idea that evolutionary theory should make us distrustful of science is by no means absent from the literature. This line of thought has received unduly little attention. I propose to remedy this by advancing (...)
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  • Missing Concepts in Natural Selection Theory Reconstructions.Santiago Ginnobili - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (3):1-33.
    The concept of fitness has generated a lot of discussion in philosophy of biology. There is, however, relative agreement about the need to distinguish at least two uses of the term: ecological fitness on the one hand, and population genetics fitness on the other. The goal of this paper is to give an explication of the concept of ecological fitness by providing a reconstruction of the theory of natural selection in which this concept was framed, that is, based on the (...)
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  • A Critical Review of the Statisticalist Debate.Jun Otsuka - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):459-482.
    Over the past decade philosophers of biology have discussed whether evolutionary theory is a causal theory or a phenomenological study of evolution based solely on the statistical features of a population. This article reviews this controversy from three aspects, respectively concerning the assumptions, applications, and explanations of evolutionary theory, with a view to arriving at a definite conclusion in each contention. In so doing I also argue that an implicit methodological assumption shared by both sides of the debate, namely the (...)
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  • Group Selection: The Theory Replaces the Bogey Man.David Sloan Wilson & Elliott Sober - 1994 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (4):639-654.
    In both biology and the human sciences, social groups are sometimes treated as adaptive units whose organization cannot be reduced to individual interactions. This group-level view is opposed by a more individualistic one that treats social organization as a byproduct of self-interest. According to biologists, group-level adaptations can evolve only by a process of natural selection at the group level. Most biologists rejected group selection as an important evolutionary force during the 1960s and 1970s but a positive literature began to (...)
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  • Reintroducing Group Selection to the Human Behavioral Sciences.David Sloan Wilson & Elliott Sober - 1994 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (4):585-608.
    In both biology and the human sciences, social groups are sometimes treated as adaptive units whose organization cannot be reduced to individual interactions. This group-level view is opposed by a more individualistic one that treats social organization as a byproduct of self-interest. According to biologists, group-level adaptations can evolve only by a process of natural selection at the group level. Most biologists rejected group selection as an important evolutionary force during the 1960s and 1970s but a positive literature began to (...)
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  • Likelihood, Analogy, and the Design Argument: A Discussion of Sober.Richard Foley - 2013 - History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 16 (1):309-330.
    Recent work by Eliot Sober regarding the logical structure of the design argument challenges widely held views on how the history of this argument should be understood. This novel “likelihood interpretation” denies that the design argument is an analogical argument. Instead, Sober suggests that all references to artifacts serve an exclusively heuristic function, and do not play an evidential role in the design argument. In contrast, I contend that philosophical considerations as well as historical analysis of the works of David (...)
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  • Evolutionary Psychology, Meet Developmental Neurobiology: Against Promiscuous Modularity.David J. Buller & Valerie Gray Hardcastle - 2000 - Brain and Mind 1 (3):307-25.
    Evolutionary psychologists claim that the mind contains “hundreds or thousands” of “genetically specified” modules, which are evolutionary adaptations for their cognitive functions. We argue that, while the adult human mind/brain typically contains a degree of modularization, its “modules” are neither genetically specified nor evolutionary adaptations. Rather, they result from the brain’s developmental plasticity, which allows environmental task demands a large role in shaping the brain’s information-processing structures. The brain’s developmental plasticity is our fundamental psychological adaptation, and the “modules” that result (...)
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  • Popper, Laws, and the Exclusion of Biology From Genuine Science.David N. Stamos - 2007 - Acta Biotheoretica 55 (4):357-375.
    The primary purpose of this paper is to argue that biologists should stop citing Karl Popper on what a genuinely scientific theory is. Various ways in which biologists cite Popper on this matter are surveyed, including the use of Popper to settle debates on methodology in phylogenetic systematics. It is then argued that the received view on Popper—namely, that a genuinely scientific theory is an empirically falsifiable one—is seriously mistaken, that Popper’s real view was that genuinely scientific theories have the (...)
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  • More on Group Selection and Human Behavior.David Sloan Wilson & Elliott Sober - 1996 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19 (4):782-787.
    The six commentaries raise five issues about multi-level selection theory that we attempt to address: (1) replicators without vehicles, (2) group selection and movement between groups, (3) absolute versus relative fitness, (4) group-level psychological adaptions, and (5) multi-level selection as a predictive theory.
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  • The Organism as Ontological Go-Between. Hybridity, Boundaries and Degrees of Reality in its Conceptual History.Charles T. Wolfe - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 1:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shps.
    The organism is neither a discovery like the circulation of the blood or the glycogenic function of the liver, nor a particular biological theory like epigenesis or preformationism. It is rather a concept which plays a series of roles – sometimes overt, sometimes masked – throughout the history of biology, and frequently in very normative ways, also shifting between the biological and the social. Indeed, it has often been presented as a key-concept in life science and the ‘theorization’ of Life, (...)
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  • The Process Dynamics of Normative Function.Wayne David Christensen & Mark H. Bickhard - 2002 - The Monist 85 (1):3-28.
    Outlines the etiological theory of normative functionality. Analysis of the autonomous system; Function of systems-oriented approaches; Specifications of system identity.
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  • The Reference Class Problem is Your Problem Too.Alan Hájek - 2007 - Synthese 156 (3):563--585.
    The reference class problem arises when we want to assign a probability to a proposition (or sentence, or event) X, which may be classified in various ways, yet its probability can change depending on how it is classified. The problem is usually regarded as one specifically for the frequentist interpretation of probability and is often considered fatal to it. I argue that versions of the classical, logical, propensity and subjectivist interpretations also fall prey to their own variants of the reference (...)
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  • Evolutionary Biology and the Concept of Disease.Anne Gammelgaard - 2000 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 3 (2):109-116.
    In recent years, an increasing number of medical books and papers attempting to analyse the concepts of health and disease from the perspective of evolutionary biology have been published.This paper introduces the evolutionary approach to health and disease in an attempt to illuminate the premisses and the framework of Darwinian medicine. My primary aim is to analyse to what extent evolutionary theory provides for a biological definition of the concept of disease. This analysis reveals some important differences between functional explanations (...)
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  • Téléologie et fonctions en biologie. Une approche non causale des explications téléofonctionnelles.Alberto Molina Pérez - 2017 - Dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
    This dissertation focuses on teleology and functions in biology. More precisely, it focuses on the scientific legitimacy of teleofunctional attributions and explanations in biology. It belongs to a multi-faceted debate that can be traced back to at least the 1970s. One aspect of the debate concerns the naturalization of functions. Most authors try to reduce, translate or explain functions and teleology in terms of efficient causes so that they find their place in the framework of the natural sciences. Our approach (...)
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  • William Paley.Logan Paul Gage - 2017 - In Paul Copan, I. I. I. Tremper Longman, Christopher L. Reese & Michael G. Strauss (eds.), Dictionary of Christianity and Science: The Definitive Reference for the Intersection of Christian Faith and Contemporary Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic. pp. 500.
  • A Soul of Truth in Things Erroneous: Popper’s “Amateurish” Evolutionary Philosophy in Light of Contemporary Biology.Davide Vecchi & Lorenzo Baravalle - 2015 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36 (4):525-545.
    This paper will critically assess Popper’s evolutionary philosophy. There exists a rich literature on the topic with which we have many reservations. We believe that Popper’s evolutionary philosophy should be assessed in light of the intriguing theoretical insights offered, during the last 10 years or so, by the philosophy of biology, evolutionary biology and molecular biology. We will argue that, when analysed in this manner, Popper’s ideas concerning the nature of selection, Lamarckism and the theoretical limits of neo-Darwinism can be (...)
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  • Hume's Skepticism and the Problem of Atheism.Paul Russell - 2021 - In Reacsting Hume and Early Modern Philosophy: Selected Essays. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 303-339.
    David Hume was clearly a critic of religion. It is still debated, however, whether or not he was an atheist who denied the existence of God. According to some interpretations he was a theist of some kind and others claim he was an agnostic who simply suspends any belief on this issue. This essay argues that Hume’s theory of belief tells against any theistic interpretation – including the weaker, “attenuated” accounts. It then turns to the case for the view that (...)
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  • Evolution and Nursing.Trevor Hussey - 2002 - Nursing Philosophy 3 (3):240-251.
  • Descartes on the Passions: Function, Representation, and Motivation.Sean Greenberg - 2007 - Noûs 41 (4):714–734.
  • Animal Pain.Colin Allen - 2004 - Noûs 38 (4):617–643.
    Which nonhuman animals experience conscious pain?1 This question is central to the debate about animal welfare, as well as being of basic interest to scientists and philosophers of mind. Nociception—the capacity to sense noxious stimuli—is one of the most primitive sensory capacities. Neurons functionally specialized for nociception have been described in invertebrates such as the leech Hirudo medicinalis and the marine snail Aplysia californica (Walters 1996). Is all nociception accompanied by conscious pain, even in relatively primitive animals such as Aplysia, (...)
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  • Sober on Intelligent Design. [REVIEW]Sahotra Sarkar - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):683-691.
    This response to Sober's (2008) Evidence and Evolution draws out and criticizes some consequences of his analysis because of its reliance on a likelihood framework for adjucating the dispute between (Intelligent Design) creationism and evolution. In particular, Sober's analysis does not allow it to be formally claimed that evolutionary theory better explains living phenomena than Intelligent Design and makes irrelevant the contribution of the theory of evolution by natural selection to assessments of the status of the argument from design. Finally, (...)
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  • A Philosophical Evaluation of Adaptationism as a Heuristic Strategy.Sara Green - 2014 - Acta Biotheoretica 62 (4):479-498.
    Adaptationism has for decades been the topic of sophisticated debates in philosophy of biology but methodological adaptationism has not received as much attention as the empirical and explanatory issues. In addition, adaptationism has mainly been discussed in the context of evolutionary biology and not in fields such as zoophysiology and systems biology where this heuristic is also used in design analyses of physiological traits and molecular structures. This paper draws on case studies from these fields to discuss the productive and (...)
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  • Teleosemantics and Indeterminacy.Manolo Martínez - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (4):427-453.
    In the first part of the paper, I present a framework for the description and evaluation of teleosemantic theories of intentionality, and use it to argue that several different objections to these theories (the various indeterminacy and adequacy problems) are, in a certain precise sense, manifestations of the same underlying issue. I then use the framework to show that Millikan's biosemantics, her own recent declarations to the contrary notwithtanding, presents indeterminacy. In the second part, I develop a novel teleosemantic proposal (...)
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  • Species, Historicity, and Path Dependency.Marc Ereshefsky - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):714-726.
    This paper clarifies the historical nature of species by showing that species are path-dependent entities. A species’ identity is not determined by its intrinsic properties or its origin, but by its unique evolutionary path. Seeing that species are path-dependent entities has three implications: it shows that origin essentialism is mistaken, it rebuts two challenges to the species-are-historical-entities thesis, and it demonstrates that the identity of a species during speciation depends on future events.
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  • Natural Selection, Causality, and Laws: What Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini Got Wrong.Elliott Sober - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (4):594-607.
    In their book What Darwin Got Wrong, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini construct an a priori philosophical argument and an empirical biological argument. The biological argument aims to show that natural selection is much less important in the evolutionary process than many biologists maintain. The a priori argument begins with the claim that there cannot be selection for one but not the other of two traits that are perfectly correlated in a population; it concludes that there cannot be an evolutionary (...)
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  • Resurrecting Biological Essentialism.Michael Devitt - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (3):344-382.
    The article defends the doctrine that Linnaean taxa, including species, have essences that are, at least partly, underlying intrinsic, mostly genetic, properties. The consensus among philosophers of biology is that such essentialism is deeply wrong, indeed incompatible with Darwinism. I argue that biological generalizations about the morphology, physiology, and behavior of species require structural explanations that must advert to these essential properties. The objection that, according to current “species concepts,” species are relational is rejected. These concepts are primarily concerned with (...)
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  • How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?Marshall Abrams - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679.
    One controversy about the existence of so called evolutionary forces such as natural selection and random genetic drift concerns the sense in which such “forces” can be said to interact. In this paper I explain how natural selection and random drift can interact. In particular, I show how population-level probabilities can be derived from individual-level probabilities, and explain the sense in which natural selection and drift are embodied in these population-level probabilities. I argue that whatever causal character the individual-level probabilities (...)
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  • Selection, Drift, and the “Forces” of Evolution.Christopher Stephens - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (4):550-570.
    Recently, several philosophers have challenged the view that evolutionary theory is usefully understood by way of an analogy with Newtonian mechanics. Instead, they argue that evolutionary theory is merely a statistical theory. According to this alternate approach, natural selection and random genetic drift are not even causes, much less forces. I argue that, properly understood, the Newtonian analogy is unproblematic and illuminating. I defend the view that selection and drift are causes in part by attending to a pair of important (...)
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  • Proper Function and Recent Selection.Peter H. Schwartz - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (3):210-222.
    "Modern History" versions of the etiological theory claim that in order for a trait X to have the proper function F, individuals with X must have been recently favored by natural selection for doing F (Godfrey-Smith 1994; Griffiths 1992, 1993). For many traits with prototypical proper functions, however, such recent selection may not have occurred: traits may have been maintained due to lack of variation or due to selection for other effects. I examine this flaw in Modern History accounts and (...)
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  • The Trials of Life: Natural Selection and Random Drift.Denis M. Walsh, Andre Ariew & Tim Lewens - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (3):452-473.
    We distinguish dynamical and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory. We argue that only the statistical interpretation preserves the presumed relation between natural selection and drift. On these grounds we claim that the dynamical conception of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces is mistaken. Selection and drift are not forces. Nor do selection and drift explanations appeal to the (sub-population-level) causes of population level change. Instead they explain by appeal to the statistical structure of populations. We briefly discuss the implications (...)
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  • Realism, Conventionalism, and Causal Decomposition in Units of Selection: Reflections on Samir Okasha’s Evolution and the Levels of Selection.Elliott Sober - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):221-231.
    I discuss two subjects in Samir Okasha’s excellent book, Evolution and the Levels of Selection. In consonance with Okasha’s critique of the conventionalist view of the units of selection problem, I argue that conventionalists have not attended to what realists mean by group, individual, and genic selection. In connection with Okasha’s discussion of the Price equation and contextual analysis, I discuss whether the existence of these two quantitative frameworks is a challenge to realism.
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  • Responses to Fitelson, Sansom, and Sarkar. [REVIEW]Elliott Sober - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):692-704.
  • Laws of Biology, Laws of Nature: Problems and (Dis)Solutions.Andrew Hamilton - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (3):592–610.
    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 (...)
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  • Plantinga’s Probability Arguments Against Evolutionary Naturalism.Branden Fitelson & Elliott Sober - 1998 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (2):115–129.
    In Chapter 12 of Warrant and Proper Function, Alvin Plantinga constructs two arguments against evolutionary naturalism, which he construes as a conjunction E&N .The hypothesis E says that “human cognitive faculties arose by way of the mechanisms to which contemporary evolutionary thought directs our attention (p.220).”1 With respect to proposition N , Plantinga (p. 270) says “it isn’t easy to say precisely what naturalism is,” but then adds that “crucial to metaphysical naturalism, of course, is the view that there is (...)
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  • Beyond the Sociobiological Dilemma: Social Emotions and the Evolution of Morality.Alejandro Rosas - 2007 - Zygon 42 (3):685-700.
    Is morality biologically altruistic? Does it imply a disadvantage in the struggle for existence? A positive answer puts morality at odds with natural selection, unless natural selection operates at the level of groups. In this case, a trait that is good for groups though bad for individuals can evolve. Sociobiologists reject group selection and have adopted one of two horns of a dilemma. Either morality is based on an egoistic calculus, compatible with natural selection; or morality continues tied to psychological (...)
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  • Conservative Reduction of Biology.Christian Sachse - 2011 - Philosophia Naturalis 48 (1):33-65.
  • How to Confuse Organisms with Mousetraps: Machine Metaphors and Intelligent Design.Doren Recker - 2010 - Zygon 45 (3):647-664.
    Why do design arguments—particularly those emphasizing machine metaphors such as “Organisms and/or their parts are machines”—continue to be so convincing to so many people after they have been repeatedly refuted? In this essay I review various interpretations and refutations of design arguments and make a distinction between rationally refuting such arguments (RefutingR) and rendering them psychologically unconvincing (RefutingP). Expanding on this distinction, I provide support from recent work on the cognitive power of metaphors and developmental psychological work indicating a basic (...)
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  • "Because" Without "Cause": The Uses and Limits of Non-Causal Explanation.Jonathan Birch - 2008 - Dissertation, University of Cambridge
    In this BA dissertation, I deploy examples of non-causal explanations of physical phenomena as evidence against the view that causal models of explanation can fully account for explanatory practices in science. I begin by discussing the problems faced by Hempel’s models and the causal models built to replace them. I then offer three everyday examples of non-causal explanation, citing sticks, pilots and apples. I suggest a general form for such explanations, under which they can be phrased as inductive-statistical arguments incorporating (...)
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