Faculty of Arts


PHIL 363

Philosophy of Biology


Description

What is natural selection, and does it act on individual organisms, genes, or groups of organisms? Can natural selection alone explain the amazing diversity and complexity we see in the living world? If every organism is trying to be the fittest, how did self-sacrificing behaviours, like sharing food, ever evolve? What is an organism, anyway—does an ant colony or a virus count? Is a virus even alive?

In this course, we will examine these and other questions about the conceptual and philosophical foundations of the life sciences. Some of these questions have been debated for centuries. Others have arisen only recently, with recent innovations in biological science and technology. Our approach will be strongly cross-disciplinary, applying philosophical rigour to debates in biology, and drawing on empirical work from biology to inform philosophical discussions. 

Biology students are encouraged to take this course, but no background in biology is required or assumed. The course will include some introduction to relevant biological issues including evolutionary theory.

Reading/texts: We will read a variety of papers and book chapters, by both philosophers of biology and biologists. All readings will be made available electronically.

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018

Lecturer(s)

Lecturer(s) Dr Emily Parke

Points

PHIL 363: 15.0 points

Prerequisites

30 points at Stage II in Philosophy or 30 points from HISTORY 240, PHIL 260, SCIGEN 201

Restrictions

PHIL 263


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