04:30 PM to 07:10 PM M
Section Information for Spring 2021
This course considers one of the most exciting and rapidly growing areas of contemporary philosophy: the philosophy of biology. Biology is a fertile field of philosophical enquiry, dealing as it does with the very nature of life itself. As practicing biologists have become increasingly specialized in recent decades, big-picture, synthesizing perspectives on how it is all supposed to hang together are needed more than ever.
The purpose of this course is to supply tools to help us gain that broader perspective—to think critically about the ways in which biology is done affect the answers it provides, and about how those sit alongside some of our wider views about the world and our place in it. We will explore a range of fascinating puzzles in the ontology, epistemology, and metaphysics of biology, and we will scrutinize the theoretical role(s) played by key biological concepts such as ‘gene’, ‘organism’, ‘development’, ‘mechanism’, ‘function’, ‘adaptation’, and ‘population’.
Some of the questions we will address include: Is biology an autonomous science or is it reducible to physics and chemistry? Does biology have laws? How do biologists explain the phenomena they study? What role do genes play in development? How do organisms adapt to their environments? Is there such a thing as a biological essence? Are organisms very complicated machines or are they something different altogether? And many more.
Anyone interested in getting past the textbook answers to think deeply about how biology works and what it tells us about ourselves will enjoy this course.
PHIL 694 DL1 is a distance education section.
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Enrollment limited to students with a class of Advanced to Candidacy, Graduate, Non-Degree or Senior Plus.
Enrollment is limited to Graduate, Non-Degree or Undergraduate level students.
Students in a Non-Degree Undergraduate degree may not enroll.