State University of New York Press

SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology

David Edward Shaner

Published by: State University of New York Press

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SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology

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Darwin and the Nature of Species

Since the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species, the concept of “species” in biology has been widely debated, with its precise definition far from settled. And yet, amazingly, there have been no books devoted to Charles Darwin’s thinking on the term until now. David N. Stamos gives us a groundbreaking, historical reconstruction of Darwin’s detailed, yet often misinterpreted, thoughts on this complex concept. Stamos provides a thorough and detailed analysis of Darwin’s extensive writings, both published and unpublished, in order to reveal Darwin’s actual species concept. Stamos argues that Darwin had a unique evolutionary species concept in mind, one that was not at all a product of his time. Challenging currently accepted views that believe Darwin was merely following the species ascriptions of his fellow naturalists, Stamos works to prove that this prevailing, nominalistic view should be overturned. This book also addresses three issues pertinent to the philosophy of science: the modern species problem, the nature of concept change in scientific revolutions, and the contextualist trend in professional history of science.

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Evolution of Death, The

Why We Are Living Longer

In The Evolution of Death, the follow-up to Becoming Immortal: Combining Cloning and Stem-Cell Therapy, also published by SUNY Press, Stanley Shostak argues that death, like life, can evolve. Observing that literature, philosophy, religion, genetics, physics, and gerontology still struggle to explain why we die, Shostak explores the mystery of death from a biological perspective. Death, Shostak claims, is not the end of a linear journey, static and indifferent to change. Instead, he suggests, the current efforts to live longer have profoundly affected our ecological niche, and we are evolving into a long-lived species. Pointing to the artificial means currently used to prolong life, he argues that as we become increasingly juvenilized in our adult life, death will become significantly and evolutionarily delayed. As bodies evolve, the embryos of succeeding generations may be accumulating the stem cells that preserve and restore, providing the resources necessary to live longer and longer. If trends like this continue, Shostak contends, future human beings may join the ranks of other animals with indefinite life spans.

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Evolution's First Philosopher

John Dewey and the Continuity of Nature

John Dewey was the first philosopher to recognize that Darwin’s thesis about natural selection not only required us to change how we think about ourselves and the life forms around us, but also required a markedly different approach to philosophy. Evolution’s First Philosopher shows how Dewey’s arguments arose from his recognition of the continuity of natural selection and mindedness, from which he developed his concept of growth. Growth, for Dewey, has no end beyond itself and forms the basis of a naturalized theory of ethics. While other philosophers gave some attention to evolutionary theory, it was Dewey alone who saw that Darwinism provides the basis for a naturalized theory of meaning. This, in turn, portends a new account of knowledge, ethics, and democracy. To clarify evolution’s conception of natural selection, Jerome A. Popp looks at brain science and examines the relationship between the genome and experience in terms of the contemporary concepts of preparedness and plasticity. This research shows how comprehensive and penetrating Dewey’s thought was in terms of further consequences for the philosophical method entailed by Darwin’s thesis. Dewey’s foresight is further legitimated when Popp places his work within the context of the current thought of Daniel Dennett.

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Leaving Us to Wonder

An Essay on the Questions Science Can't Ask

This exciting collaboration between a biologist and a philosopher explores the meaning of the scientific worldview and how it plays out in our everyday lives. The authors investigate alternatives to scientism, the view that science is the proper and exclusive foundation for thinking about and answering every question. They ask: Does the current technoscientific worldview threaten the pursuit of living well? Do the facts procured by technoscientific systems render inconsequential our lived experiences, the wisdom of ancient and contemporary philosophical insight, and the promise offered by time-honored religious beliefs? Drawing on important Western thinkers, including Kant, Nietzsche, Darwin, Heidegger, and others, Linda Wiener and Ramsey Eric Ramsey demonstrate how many of the claims and conclusions of technoscience can and should be challenged. They offer ways of thinking about science in a larger context that respect scientific practice, while taking seriously alternative philosophical modes of thought whose aims are freedom, the good life, and living well.

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