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20 - Ecology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2008

David L. Hull
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
Michael Ruse
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

INTRODUCTION: UNDEAD DOGMAS OF EMPIRICISM

I suspect the demand for evidence about individuals is a bastardized version of an old positivist claim: the claim that theoretical terms must be defined in observational ones, in particular individual sensory experiences.

Kincaid 1996, 182

The philosophy of biology has matured quite a bit over the last two decades. Back in 1988, Ruse noted a conspicuous dearth of work on ecology. But by 1999, Sterelny and Griffiths devoted an entire chapter to it in their introduction to the philosophy of biology. There is still plenty of room, and reason, for more philosophical attention to a science so vital for understanding and addressing environmental concerns. But at least several people now make philosophy of ecology their academic specialty.

In the following I shall very briefly survey recent developments in both ecology and the philosophy thereof. One important aspect of the developments within ecology is an expansion to larger spatiotemporal scales of investigation. This wider focus has often, though not always, resulted in a shift in perspective, from viewing ecological entities as closed systems to treating them as open systems. I will take a closer look at three examples of scale expansion and tease out some of their implications for environmental policy, on one hand, and still-common reductionist philosophies of science, on the other. Finally, I will consider the philosophical implications of the search for mechanisms, when the open nature of the systems under study is acknowledged.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • Ecology
  • Edited by David L. Hull, Northwestern University, Illinois, Michael Ruse, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology
  • Online publication: 28 April 2008
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521851282.020
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  • Ecology
  • Edited by David L. Hull, Northwestern University, Illinois, Michael Ruse, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology
  • Online publication: 28 April 2008
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521851282.020
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Ecology
  • Edited by David L. Hull, Northwestern University, Illinois, Michael Ruse, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology
  • Online publication: 28 April 2008
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521851282.020
Available formats
×