Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

This book was written primarily for readers of two kinds: philosophy students and biologists interested in philosophical issues surrounding their work. Writing for both these audiences leads to a fair amount of stage setting on both the philosophical and...

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1. Philosophy and Biology

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pp. 1-10

In working out how philosophy and biology are related, and what the philosophy of biology might be, much depends on general questions about the nature of philosophy and what it aims to achieve. The best one-sentence summary of what philosophy...

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2. Laws, Mechanisms, and Models

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pp. 11-27

Looking at biology from a philosophical point of view, one of the first things people notice is that there is apparently not much role for scientific laws. The image of science as a search for the laws governing the natural world is an old and influential one...

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3. Evolution and Natural Selection

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pp. 38-49

A large proportion of the philosophy of biology is about evolutionary theory, as this part of biology unifies much of the rest, has a great deal to say about our place in the universe, and gives rise to many puzzles. Evolutionary change occurs at several scales...

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4. Adaptation, Construction, Function

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pp. 50-65

Some scientific theories bear directly on the place of humans in the universe’s total network of causes and effects. Clear examples include materialist and determinist views, and their rivals. Other theories do it in less obvious ways. They might bear on...

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5. Individuals

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pp. 66-80

In the 1961 science fiction novel Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem, astronauts explore a planet where life exists, but does not seem to be divided up into discrete individuals. Or perhaps the oceanic planet is one big living individual. On earth, in contrast, living...

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6. Genes

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pp. 81-99

The first chapter gave an overview of some of the history of biology, and this chapter begins with a closer look at one area, genetics. The history feeds directly into a central issue, the question of what genes are. The following section looks at what genes do...

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7. Species and the Tree of Life

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pp. 100-119

Recognizing “kinds” of some sort is ubiquitous, perhaps inevitable, in thought and description. In the case of living things, species have long seemed particularly important; a species seems to be the basic kind of organism that something is. Some philosophical...

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8. Evolution and Social Behavior

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pp. 120-143

This chapter is about social behavior, especially cooperation, altruism, and their relatives. These behaviors have great importance in human life, and they also pose problems for evolutionary explanation. If evolution is a reproductive competition, how can...

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9. Information

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pp. 144-158

In his book Natural Selection (1992), George Williams claimed that there are two “domains” in which biological change occurs. One is material and the other is “codical,” a domain of information. In evolutionary processes information is created, persists...

References

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pp. 159-178

Index

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pp. 179-187