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PHIL 369E: Philosophy of Evolutionary Theory

Graduate seminar. Fitness, natural selection, and common ancestry are well-known and central topics in Darwin's theory of evolution and in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century theories that grew out of it, but many other important topics are addressed in evolutionary biology that raise interesting philosophical questions. In this seminar, we will also discuss altruism, intragenomic conflict, drift, the randomness of mutation, gradualism, taxonomy, race, phylogenetic inference, and optimality models. These biological topics will be brought into contact with numerous philosophical ideas - operationalism, reductionism, conventionalism, null hypotheses and default reasoning, instrumentalism versus realism, likelihoods versus probabilities, model selection, essentialism, falsifiability, parsimony, the principle of the common cause, comparisons of causal power, indeterminism, sensitivity to initial conditions, and the knowability of the past. The seminar will be built around my recently completed book, The Philosophy of Evolutionary Theory, which Cambridge University Press will publish in March 2024, along with other readings. The 2 unit option is only allowed for Philosophy PhD students who are beyond the second year.
Terms: Win | Units: 2-4
Instructors: Sober, E. (PI)
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