Philosophy of Biology
Part of Darwin's “Diagram of Divergence of Taxa”, the only diagram in On The Origin of Species. The diagram depicts “hypothetical phylogenetic relationships, showing how lineages diverge from common ancestors and give rise to both extinct and extant species. Time intervals (between Roman numerals) represent thousands of generations. [...] Distance along the horizontal axis represents degree of divergence (as, for example, in body form). Darwin recognized that rates of evolution vary greatly, showing this by different angles in the diagram” (Futuyma, 2009, p. 21). Note too that the diagram displays Darwin's recognition that it is the most divergent species that are most likely to survive. For the full diagram see here.
|PHIL-SHU 91 1 (22467)||1555 Century Avenue, Room 204||Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:45am to 11:00am|
|Brad Weslakefirstname.lastname@example.org||1555 Century Avenue, Room 961||By appointment.|
This class is an introduction to philosophy of biology focussing on issues connected with human nature. No prior philosophy of science or biology will be assumed.
- Two exams.
- Two 6–8 page papers.
- Attendance and participation.
The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:
|Attendance and participation:||10%|
|First Exam:||Wednesday 6 March|
|First Paper:||Monday 1 April|
|Second Exam:||Monday 29 April|
|Second Paper:||Wednesday 15 May|
Attendance and Lateness
Students are required to attend all classes on time. An explanation for every absence or late attendance must be submitted in writing to the instructor. Every failure to attend class on time will count against the component of the final grade awarded for attendance and participation, unless an explanation is received and approved at least one day prior to the class in question. Requests for exceptions will be considered on a case by case basis, and typically granted only when related to an illness or other unforeseeable change in life circumstance. Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.
It is a condition on passing this course that students read and adhere to the NYU Shanghai policy on academic integrity as described in the current NYU Shanghai Academic Bulletin.
All notes, readings and assignments can be found here.
Meeting 1: Introductory Discussion (Monday 11 February)
- Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2009. Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, Oxford University Press, Oxford. URI: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/nyulibrary/detail.action?docID=10288378, §1.
Section I: Natural Selection
Meeting 2: The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness (Wednesday 13 February)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §2.1).
- Mills, Susan K. and Beatty, John H. 1979. “The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 46, No. 2, June, pp. 263–286. URI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/187048.
- Sober, Elliott. unpublished. “Two Fitness Fallacies”. URI: https://goo.gl/MNYMY6, §1.
Meeting 3: Problems for The Propensity Interpretation (Monday 18 February)
- Sober, Elliott. 2000. “The Two Faces of Fitness”, in Singh, Krimbas, Paul and Beatty (Ed), Thinking about Evolution: Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 309–321.
- Sober, Elliott. unpublished. “Two Fitness Fallacies”. URI: https://goo.gl/MNYMY6, §2.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§2.2–2.3).
Meeting 4: What Can Selection Explain? (Wednesday 20 February)
- Forber, Patrick. 2005. “On the Explanatory Roles of Natural Selection”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 2, March, pp. 329–342. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10539-005-5588-2.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§3.1–3.3).
Meeting 5: How Much Does Selection Explain? (Monday 25 February)
- Gould, Stephen Jay and Lewontin, Richard C. 1979. “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme”, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 205, No. 1161, pp. 581–598. URI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1979.0086.
Meeting 6: How Can We Tell What Selection Explains? (Wednesday 27 February)
- Maynard Smith, John. 1978. “Optimization Theory in Evolution”, in Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 9, November, pp. 31–56. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.es.09.110178.000335.
Meeting 7: Review (Monday 4 March)
Meeting 8: First Exam (Wednesday 6 March)
Section II: Species
Meeting 9: (Monday 11 March)
- Sober, Elliott. 1980. “Evolution, Population Thinking, and Essentialism”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 47, No. 3, September, pp. 350–383. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/288942.
Meeting 10: (Wednesday 13 March)
Meeting 11: (Monday 18 March)
Meeting 12: (Wednesday 20 March)
Meeting 13: (Monday 25 March)
Meeting 14: (Wednesday 27 March)
Meeting 15: (Monday 1 April)
Meeting 16: (Wednesday 3 April)
Meeting 17: (Monday 8 April)
Meeting 18: (Wednesday 10 April)
Meeting 19: (Monday 15 April)
Meeting 20: (Wednesday 17 April)
Meeting 21: (Monday 22 April)
Meeting 22: (Wednesday 24 April)
Meeting 23: Second Exam (Monday 29 April)
Meeting 24: (Sunday 5 May)
Meeting 25: (Monday 6 May)
Meeting 26: (Wednesday 8 May)
Meeting 27: (Monday 13 May)
Meeting 28: (Wednesday 15 May)
Updated: 10 February 2019