Centre for Philosophy of Science Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab

Frédéric Bouchard


Course Description

Through the 20th Century, evolutionary theory went from focusing on the selection of organisms to thinking about the dynamics of alleles. This shift forced biologists and philosophers to think about the levels and the units on which natural selection acts upon. What this shift has often downplayed however is the question of how to think about multi-species communities (e.g. symbiotic communities) evolving as unified emergent individuals. We will examine how some simple (i.e. clones) and complex biological individuals demand non-standard accounts of evolution by natural selection and how this problem helps us better understand evolution in general. Through this class we will get a better grasp on the problem of units of selection and the problem of biological individuality.

Day-by-Day Program

Lecture 1: Units of Selection and the Conditions for Evolution

  1. Lloyd, Elisabeth. “Units and Levels of Selection.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Spring 2012., 2012.
  2. Griesemer, James. “Development, Culture, and the Units of Inheritance.” Philosophy of Science 67 (September 1, 2000): S348–S368.

Lecture 2: Fitness: Who Has It and How Do You Measure It?

  1. Sober, Elliott. “The Two Faces of Fitness.” In Thinking About Evolution : Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives, edited by Rama S Singh, Costas B Krimbas, Diane B Paul, and John Beatty, pp.309–321 (xvii, 606 p.). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001
  2. Ariew, André, and Richard C Lewontin. “The Confusion of Fitness.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55, no. 2 (2004): 365–370.
  3. Clarke, Ellen. “Plant Individuality: a Solution to the Demographer’s Dilemma.” Biology and Philosophy 27, no. 3 (2012): 321–361.

Lecture 3: Groups and Collectives as Emergent Individuals

  1. Turner, J. Scott. “Extended Phenotypes and Extended Organisms.” Biology and Philosophy 19 (2004): 327–352.
  2. Haber, Matt. “Colonies Are Individuals: Revisiting the Superorganism Revival.” In From Groups to Individuals: Perspectives on Biological Associations and Emerging Individuality, edited by Frédéric Bouchard and Philippe Huneman, Ch.9. Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2013.

Lecture 4: Multi-Species Communities as Emergent Individuals

  1. Sterelny, Kim. “Symbiosis, Evolvability and Modularity.” In Modularity in Development and Evolution, edited by Gerhard Schlosser and Günter Wagner, 490–516. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  2. Ereshefsky, Marc, and Makmiller Pedroso. “Biological Individuality: The Case of Biofilms.” Biology and Philosophy (n.d.): 1–19.

Lecture 5: Complex Biological Individuals and Non-Standard Accounts of Evolution

  1. Dupré, John, and Maureen A O’Malley. “Varieties of Living Things: Life At The Intersection of Lineage And Metabolism.” Philosophy & Theory in Biology 1 (December 2009).
  2. Van Valen, Leigh M. “Biotal Evolution: a Manifesto.” Evolutionary Theory 10 (1991): 1–13.
  3. Van Valen, Leigh M. “Three Paradigms of Evolution.” Evolutionary Theory 9 (1989): 1–17.

Suggested Further Reading

  1. Griffiths, Paul. “Philosophy of Biology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Summer 2011., 2011.
  2. Bouchard, Frédéric. “Darwinism Without Populations: a More Inclusive Understanding of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42, no. 1 (March 2011): 106–114.
  3. O’Malley, Maureen A., and John Dupré. “Size Doesn’t Matter: Towards a More Inclusive Philosophy of Biology.” Biology & Philosophy 22, no. 2 (March 2007): 155–191.
  4. Wilson, D. S, and E. Sober. “Reviving the Superorganism.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 136, no. 3 (1989): 337–356.
  5. Brandon, Robert, "Natural Selection", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)