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  1. Causation in Biology: Stability, Specificity, and the Choice of Levels of Explanation.James Woodward - 2010 - Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):287-318.
    This paper attempts to elucidate three characteristics of causal relationships that are important in biological contexts. Stability has to do with whether a causal relationship continues to hold under changes in background conditions. Proportionality has to do with whether changes in the state of the cause “line up” in the right way with changes in the state of the effect and with whether the cause and effect are characterized in a way that contains irrelevant detail. Specificity is connected both to (...)
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  • The Negative View of Natural Selection.Jonathan Birch - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2):569-573.
    An influential argument due to Elliott Sober, subsequently strengthened by Denis Walsh and Joel Pust, moves from plausible premises to the bold conclusion that natural selection cannot explain the traits of individual organisms. If the argument were sound, the explanatory scope of selection would depend, surprisingly, on metaphysical considerations concerning origin essentialism. I show that the Sober-Walsh-Pust argument rests on a flawed counterfactual criterion for explanatory relevance. I further show that a more defensible criterion for explanatory relevance recently proposed by (...)
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  • Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
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  • Probabilistic Causation and the Explanatory Role of Natural Selection.Pablo Razeto-Barry & Ramiro Frick - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (3):344-355.
    The explanatory role of natural selection is one of the long-term debates in evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, the consensus has been slippery because conceptual confusions and the absence of a unified, formal causal model that integrates different explanatory scopes of natural selection. In this study we attempt to examine two questions: (i) What can the theory of natural selection explain? and (ii) Is there a causal or explanatory model that integrates all natural selection explananda? For the first question, we argue that (...)
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  • Pruning the Tree of Life.Karen Neander - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (1):59-80.
    argue that natural selection does not explain the genotypic arid phenotypic properties of individuals. On this view, natural selection explains the adaptedness of individuals, not by explaining why the individuals that exist have the adaptations they do, but rather by explaining why the individuals that exist are the ones with those adaptations. This paper argues that this ‘Negative’ view of natural selection ignores the fact that natural selection is a cumulative selection process. So understood, it explains how the genetic sequences (...)
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  • Natural Selection and Distributive Explanation: A Reply to Neander.Elliott Sober - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (3):384-397.
    The thesis that natural selection explains the frequencies of traits in populations, but not why individual organisms have the traits tehy do, is here defended and elaborated. A general concept of ‘distributive explanation’ is discussed.
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  • Explaining Complex Adaptations: A Reply to Sober's 'Reply to Neander'.Karen Neander - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (4):583-587.
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  • Is Sex Really Necessary? And Other Questions for Lewens.Mohan Matthen - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):297-308.
    It has been claimed that certain forms of individual essentialism render the Theory of Natural Selection unable to explain why any given individual has the traits it does. Here, three reasons are offered why the Theory ought to ignore these forms of essentialism. First, the trait-distributions explained by population genetics supervene on individual-level causal links, and thus selection must have individual-level effects. Second, even if there are individuals that possess thick essences, they lie outside the domain of the Theory. Finally, (...)
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  • Discussion. Evolution, Wisconsin Style: Selection and the Explanation of Individual Traits.M. Matthen - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (1):143-150.
    natural selection may show why all (most, some) humans have an opposable thumb, but cannot show why any particular human has one, Karen Neander ([1995a], [1995b]) argues that this is false because natural selection is 'cumulative'. It is argued here, on grounds independent of its cumulativity, that selection can explain the characteristics of individual organisms subsequent to the event. The difference of opinion between Sober and his critics turns on an ontological dispute about how organisms are identified and individuated. The (...)
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  • Origins Are Not Essences in Evolutionary Systematics.Mohan Matthen - 2002 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):167 - 181.
    Sound like a philosopher’s controversy? I think so. In ‘Evolution,’ I argued that Anti-Individualism was committed to a ‘highly metaphysical’ proposition at odds with the methodology of population genetics. This infelicity gave me reason for rejecting it. In his recent article, Pust takes issue with Neander and me. Until Pust wrote, Sober felt some small pressure from Individualism, and had shifted, albeit microscopically, toward it—he thought that on a very broad conception of causation, there might be some reason to think (...)
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  • Natural Selection Explanation and Origin Essentialism.Joel Pust - 2001 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (2):201-220.
    Does natural selection explain why individual organisms have the traits that they do? According to "the Negative View," natural selection does not explain why any individual organism has the traits that it does. According to "the Positive View," natural selection at least sometimes does explain why an individual organism has the traits that it does. In this paper, I argue that recent arguments for the Positive View fail in virtue of running afoul of the doctrine of origin essentialism and I (...)
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  • Can Cumulative Selection Explain Adaptation?Bence Nanay - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1099-1112.
    Two strong arguments have been given in favor of the claim that no selection process can play a role in explaining adaptations. According to the first argument, selection is a negative force; it may explain why the eliminated individuals are eliminated, but it does not explain why the ones that survived (or their offspring) have the traits they have. The second argument points out that the explanandum and the explanans are phenomena at different levels: selection is a population-level phenomenon, whereas (...)
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  • Natural Selection and the Limited Nature of Environmental Resources.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (4):418-419.
    In this paper, I am clarifying and defending my argument in favor of the claim that cumulative selection can explain adaptation provided that the environmental resources are limited. Further, elaborate on what this limitation of environmental resources means and why it is relevant for the explanatory power of natural selection.
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  • Natural Selection and the Traits of Individual Organisms.Joel Pust - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (5):765-779.
    I have recently argued that origin essentialism regarding individual organisms entails that natural selection does not explain why individual organisms have the traits that they do. This paper defends this and related theses against Mohan Matthen's recent objections.
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  • On the Explanatory Roles of Natural Selection.Patrick Forber - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):329-342.
    Can selection explain why individuals have the traits they do? This question has generated significant controversy. I will argue that the debate encompasses two separable aspects, to detrimental effect: (1) the role of selection in explaining the origin and evolution of biological traits and (2) the implications this may have for explaining why individuals have the traits they do. (1) can be settled on the basis of evolutionary theory while (2) requires additional, extra-scientific assumptions. By making a distinction between traits (...)
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  • What Selection Can and Cannot Explain: A Reply to Nanay’s Critique of Sober.Casey Helgeson - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (1):155-159.
    In The Nature of Selection, Elliott Sober argued that natural selection is in principle powerless to explain why any individual organism has the traits it does rather than the very same individual having different traits. In this note, I argue that in a recent and prominent critique of Sober’s position, Bence Nanay talks past that position rather than addressing it.
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  • Reply to Bence Nanay's 'Natural Selection and the Limited Nature of Environmental Resources'.Ulrich Stegmann - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (4):420-421.
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  • Sex and Selection: A Reply to Matthen.Tim Lewens - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3):589-598.
    argues that when reproduction is sexual, natural selection can explain why individual organisms possess the traits they do. In stating his argument Matthen makes use of a conception of individual organisms as receptacles for collections of genes—a conception that cannot do the work Matthen requires of it. Either these receptacles are abstract objects, such as bare possibilities for organisms, or they are concrete. The first reading is too weak, since it allows selection to explain individual traits in both sexual and (...)
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  • The Scope of Selection: Sober and Neander on What Natural Selection Explains.D. M. Walsh - 1998 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76 (2):250 – 264.
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  • What Can Natural Selection Explain?Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (1):61-66.
    One approach to assess the explanatory power of natural selection is to ask what type of facts it can explain. The standard list of explananda includes facts like trait frequencies or the survival of particular organisms. Here, I argue that this list is incomplete: natural selection can also explain a specific kind of individual-level fact that involves traits. The ability of selection to explain this sort of fact vindicates the explanatory commitments of empirical studies on microevolution. Trait facts must be (...)
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  • What Does Natural Selection Explain? Correction to Sober.Karen Neander - 1988 - Philosophy of Science 55 (3):422-426.
    In this paper I argue against Sober's claim that natural selection does not explain the traits of individuals. Sober argues that natural selection only explains the distribution of traits in a population. My point is that the explanation of an individual's traits involves us in a description of the individual's ancestry, and in an explanation of the distribution of traits in that ancestral population. Thus Sober is wrong, natural selection is part of the explanation of the traits of individuals.
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