Philosophy of Biology

Spring 2019

Charles Darwin, Diagram of Divergence of Taxa

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.

Details

Course CodesLocation Times
PHIL-SHU 91 1 (22467)1555 Century Avenue, Room 204Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:45am to 11:00am

Instructor

NameEmailOfficeConsultation Times
Brad Weslakebrad.weslake@nyu.edu1555 Century Avenue, Room 961By appointment.

Overview

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.

Assessment

Requirements:

The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:

First Exam: 20%
Second Exam: 20%
First Paper: 20%
Second Paper: 30%
Attendance and participation: 10%

Assessment dates:

First Exam: Wednesday 6 March
First Paper: Monday 1 April
Second Exam: Monday 29 April
Second Paper: Wednesday 15 May

Policies

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 Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.

Integrity

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.

Course Materials

All notes, readings and assignments can be found here.

Schedule

Meeting 1: Introductory Discussion (Monday 11 February)

Section I: Natural Selection

Meeting 2: The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness (Wednesday 13 February)

Meeting 3: Problems for The Propensity Interpretation (Monday 18 February)

Meeting 4: What Can Selection Explain? (Wednesday 20 February)

Meeting 5: How Much Does Selection Explain? (Monday 25 February)

Meeting 6: How Can We Tell What Selection Explains? (Wednesday 27 February)

Meeting 7: Review (Monday 4 March)

Meeting 8: First Exam (Wednesday 6 March)

Section II: Species

Meeting 9: (Monday 11 March)

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