philosophy of biology
Answer each of the tutorial discussion and exam question for about 300 words for Day 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9. using only the provided reading list.
The following reading will be useful background for the subject as a whole.?• David Hull (2008) “The History of the philosophy of Biology” The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Biology, Michael Ruse (ed) OUP pp.11-33
Reading?Aristotle, “De Partibus Animualium (On parts of Animals)”
Marjorie Grene, Ch VII “The Relevance of Aristotle” in A Portrait of Aristotle, Faber and Faber, London, 19 Sections 1 through 3.
Aristotle’s Categories translated JL Ackrill
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?”Aristotle, the only great philosopher who philosophized out of a passion for living nature, may still help us to learn” Grene, p. 241.
How do the metaphysical commitments of modern biology differ from the metaphysical commitments of Aristotle’s project, and how are they similar? How might Aristotle’s writings help those interested in a contemporary philosophy of biology?
Lectures: Getting a handle on Aristotle as a ‘biologist’; The Relevance of Aristotle for Contemporary Biologists
Reading?Robert Wohl, “Buffon and his project for a New Science”, Isis Vol 51, No.2, 1960, pp. 186-199
Phillip Sloan, “The Buffon-Linnaeus Controversy”, Isis Vol 67 No 3, 1976 pp. 356-375.??Marjorie Grene and David Depew, “The Eighteenth Century I: Buffon” in The Philosophy of Biology An Episodic History, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp.64-91.
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?Buffon distrusted abstractions and insisted that we stick as closely as possible to concrete realities presented to us by our senses. He acknowledged that we want to make generalisations but that we must do so with caution. As he puts it near the end of Premier discours “The most delicate and the most important point in the study of the sciences …is …to know what is real in a subject from what we arbitarily put there in considering it” OP, p.26??On the basis of lecture material and of reading the set articles give an account of what you understand Buffon to mean by contrasting the ‘real’ with ‘what we arbitarily put there in considering [nature]’.
Lectures: George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon 1707-1788. On Being Explicit about a Working Account of Realness
? cuvier copy.pdf (1.146 MB)
? geoffroy 2 copy.pdf (1.013 MB)
? geoffroy copy.pdf (1.196 MB)
? Asma copy.pdf (1.201 MB)
? cuvier 2 copy.pdf (2.291 MB)
Reading?Stephen T Asma, “Organic form and the Cuvier-Geoffroy debate” Ch 1 Following Form and Function, A Philosophical Archaeology of Life Science, Northwestern University Press, 1996.??Georges Cuvier “Philosophy of animal classification” (Appendix) Historical Portrait of the Progress of Ichthyology, from its Origins to Our Own Time. Ed. Theodore W Pietsch, Trans Abby J Simpson, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995??Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, “On the respiratory organs…” and “Of Human Monstrosities” Anatomical Philosophy: Preliminary Discourse. Reprinted in Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1772-1844 A Visionary Naturalist, H.Le Guyader (trans Marjorie Grene) University Of Chicago Press, 2004.??Georges Cuvier “Anatomical and physiological contributions of the early nineteenth century” (Chapter 15) Historical Portrait of the Progress of Ichthyology, from its Origins to Our Own Time. Ed. Theodore W Pietsch, Trans Abby J Simpson, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?In this introduction Asma understands the Cuvier/Geoffroy contest as one between functionalism and structuralism. It can also be read as a contest between Cuvier’s one-many from of reasoning which we see displayed in his “Philosophy of Animal Classification” and Geoffroy’s whole-parts form of reasoning as seen in his “Anatomical Philosophy”.?
In struggling to understand what is at stake in the contest—the philosophical issues, on the basis of your (admittedly very limited) reading of Cuvier and Geoffroy, explain how would you characterise the contest and why??(Note: In saying why you would characterise the contest one way and not the other, I am asking you to think about the processes of classification. I am not asking you to assemble evidence from the texts to justify your reading as either one or the other form of contest.)
Lectures: A New Order of Natural Knowledge: Geoffroy and Cuvier
Reading?Immanuel Kant, “Analytic of Teleological Judgment” parts 1-5, The Critique of Judgement, (trans. James Creed Meredith, 1928). Oxford University Press, 1992.?(Note the numbers in the outside margins 362…and onwards are the page numbers in the original German text)
This commentary might help you find your way through the Kant. The page reference numbers are to the numbers in the outer margins (362… onwards) in the Kant text: James Larson, “Kant and the critique of Teleological Judgment” Interpreting nature The Science of Living Form from Linnaeus to Kant, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Showing some of the judgments botanists had to make on an everyday basis whilst on expedition and afterwards): Robert Brown, Chapter 10, Nature’s Investigator The Diary of Robert Brown in Australia 1801-1805. Complied by TG Vallance, DT Moore, & EW Groves, Commonwealth of Australia, 2001.
D. J. Mabberley, Chapter IX, Jupiter Botanicus Robert Brown of the British Museum. Braunschweig Verlag von
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?Discuss the everyday judgments of the 19th century botanist on expedition in the light of Kant’s treatment of teleology.
Lectures: Taxonomy and Kant’s Critique of Teleological Judgement
Readings?Charles Darwin, “Introduction” and “Ch 2 Variation under Nature”, The Origin of Species, (1951)
Elizabeth Grosz “ Ch 2 Biological Difference” The Nick of Time, Duke Univ Press, 2004Readings
Ernst Mayr “Ch 6 Darwin’s Five Theories of Evolution” What makes biology unique? : considerations on the autonomy of a scientific discipline, Cambridge Univ Press, 2007??Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?“…individual variation must be placed in a system of selection to have value. Like origin, value itself is differential. Darwin places pure difference, pure biological difference, as the very matter of life itself: it is only differentiating, distinguishing, rendering more and more distinct, specializing and adapting, that characterise life in its essence. Its essence is in differentiation, in making a difference.” p. 46 Grosz.??Comment on this series of claims about Darwin’s treatment of difference and differentiation as crucial characteristics of living matter. What’s the difference between difference and differentiation?
Lectures: Charles Darwin’ Theory: Philosophical Issues
Reading?Comfort, Nathaniel, “The Real Point is Control”: The Reception of Barbara McClintock’s Controlling Elements Journal of the History of Biology 32: 133–162, 1999.
Review Symposium “ Untangling McClintock Myths”, Metascience, Vol 11, #3, 2002
Ernst Mayr What makes Biology Unique? Chapter 9. Do Thomas Kuhn’s scientific revolutions take place?
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?Barbara McClintock proposed a theory which had plant embryogenesis controlled by transposing genes on chromosomes. Her theory did not produce a revolution in understanding the relations between embryogenesis and genetics. She was however awarded the Nobel prize for her experimental work in genetics. Was Barbara McClintock fundamentally mistaken in her views of the nature of biological knowledge. Discuss this question in the light of Mayr’s argument that Kuhnian revolutions do not occur in biology.
Lectures: Barbara McClintock and Genetic Transposition: A Failed Kuhnian Revolution?
Reading?Wilson, E.O. “From Sociobiology to Sociology” Ch 27 Sociobiology The New Synthesis. Harvard University Press, 1975
Segerstrale, Ullica Christina Olofsdotter. Chapter, 2 Defenders of the truth : the battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond. Ullica Segerstrale. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Hankinson-Nelson, Lyn, (1990) Ch 4 Who Knows From Quine to a Feminist Empiricism, Temple University Press.
Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?Hankinson-Nelson calls for scientists to engage in regular ‘ontological and epistemological house cleaning’ (p.167) She argues that “we would expect to find metaphysical commitments incorporated in theories, methodologies, and questions. And we would expect that in conveying these things, scientists will convey metaphysical commitments. …this is an issue only if scientists refuse to acknowledge that… and continue the myth that science is without such commitments or if we assume like Kuhn that metaphysical commitments are beyond elucidation and evaluation [actually as part of the process of good scientific activity]. Using sociobiology as a case explain what metaphysical commitments are, and describe the process of ‘ontological and epistemological house cleaning’ that Hankinson-Nelson claims sociobiologists should engage in as part of elucidating and evaluating those commitments.
Lectures: Sociobiology and its critics
focuses on molecular biology. Our two articles concern a central metaphor of this field “Do Genes Encode Information about Phenotypic Traits?” they both ask. Begin with a close reading of the short Introduction, and Sections 13.1, 13.2, 14.1, and?Sohatra Sarkar ch Chp 13 “Genes encode information for phenotypic traits” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science, C Hitchcock (ed). Blackwell, 2004?Peter Godfrey Smith Chp 14“Genes do not encode information about phenotypic traits” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science, C Hitchcock (ed). Blackwell, 2004?Aditional Reading:?Christina Brandt, “Genetic Code, Text, and Scripture: Metaphors and Narration in German Molecular Biology”, Science in Context 18(4), 629–648 (2005).?Tutorial Discussion and Exam Question:?Describe two ways to understand the functioning of the metaphor of ‘information’ in molecular biology’s knowledge practices linking genes and phenotypic traits. Why is it important for a scientist to be clear about the workings of metaphor??Lectures: Genes and their history of multiple ways of being real??
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