Presentation on theme: "Sex and Death An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology Eric Oberheim HUB SS2005."— Presentation transcript:
Sex and Death An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology Eric Oberheim HUB SS2005
What is Philosophy of Biology? Why is Biology relevant to Philosophy? 1. Because Biology helps explain what we are how we came to be and our relation to the natural world.
What is Philosophy of Biology? Why is Biology relevant to Philosophy? 2. Because Biology has theoretical, moral and social significance. Knowledge about living organisms is relevant to ethical, cosmological, and religious issues.
What is Philosophy of Biology? Why is Biology relevant to Philosophy? Examples: 1. Theory (evolution) 2. Bio technologies (health, food) 3. Political Policies (sociobiology, eugenics)
What is Philosophy of Biology? Some Philosophy of Biology: Examples: Herbert Spencer Friedrich Nietzsche Charles Sanders Pierce Bertrand Russell and J.J.C. Smart Contemporary Bioethics
What is Philosophy of Biology? Two types of philosophy of biology: Norms and Descriptions 1. Biology generates conceptual problems 2. Biology generates ethical issues
What is Philosophy of Biology? Warning: The Naturalistic Fallacy Fallacious argument from is to ought. 1. Biological descriptions, by themselves, cannot support arguments to normative conclusions. 2. Normative premises are necessary for arguing validly to conclusions about how something ought to be.
What is Philosophy of Biology? Warning: The Naturalistic Fallacy 3. is a limit on the ethical significance of pure biology. 4. Just because something is, or has been, so does not mean that should be like that. 5. Such arguments are especially relevant in situations effecting events controlled by human actions.
What is Philosophy of Biology? Warning: The Naturalistic Fallacy Example: The church is accused of using fallacious arguments from authority. ‘Just because sex is for reproduction, it should not be used merely for fun.’
What is Philosophy of Biology? Warning: The Naturalistic Fallacy 6. However, there are Morally Relevant Facts Example: Human Economic Practices cause extinctions of species, decrease in disparity, and deprecation of ecosystems. The potent- ially catastrophic Sixth Great Extinction is man-made. Note: Biotechnologies potentially part of solution to morally sensitive issues.
What is Philosophy of Biology? Current Focus: Evolutionary Theory Conceptual and ethical problems generated by how we understand ourselves and each other in light of Theory of Evolution
What is Philosophy of Biology? Five leading questions: I.What is human nature? II.Can we be altruistic? III.To what extent is our behavior genetically programmed? IV.What should conservationists conserve? V.How does Biology bear on psychology and the social science?
What is Philosophy of Biology? 1.HUMAN NATURE What are human beings? Human beings are homo sapiens What are homo sapiens? Homo sapiens is a species What are species? Species are groups of organisms.
What is Philosophy of Biology? 1.HUMAN NATURE What are groups of organisms? AristotleTaxonomic Classifications are based on Essential Property of Individuals Example: Periodic Table. Essential property of Oxygen is having 8 protons. BiologyPopulations and Variation
What is Philosophy of Biology? 1.HUMAN NATURE Diversity/Uniformity Identification/Essence Nothing privileged about the Norm
I. Human Nature 1.HUMAN NATURE Frequency-dependent selection Example 1: Hawks and Doves Example 2: Psychopaths? Amount of variation in human population is an empirical question.
II. Altruism Altruism: An altruistic act is an act preformed by one individual to benefit another. The Selfish Gene (Dawkins, 1976) -Humans are survival machines built by genes. -Sole function: Reproduction.
II. Altruism Sociobiology: Evolutionary explanations of human behaviour. (1970s) Gene Selectionism: Only genes passed on through reproduction. Sociobiological assumption: Evolved human behaviour designed to benefit genes.
II. Altruism Question: If organisms exist only to benefit genes, could evolution create altruistic organisms? Adaptation: Feature of organism whose presence can be explained by the fact that it served some useful purposes in previous generations.
II. Altruism Adaptations: organism/group Example: Warning call Group selective explanation Against group selection: 1. ‘Subversion from within’ 2. Dilemma: Either much human behaviour inexplicable on the basis of biology, or all human behaviour explainable in terms of individual self-interest. For group selection: ‘Population structure’
III. Genetic Programming Two opposing views: 1. Biological determinism: psychological or social organization are somehow “fixed” by biology 2.Environmental/Social determinism: Biology only provides broad constraints on range of outcomes that can be produced by environmental factors. How do genes and the environment contribute to determining human behaviour
IV.Conservationism/Ecology What should conservations conserve? What is a species? A group of organisms potentially capable of interbreeding with each other (Ernst Meyer) This definition fails for many types of organisms. Implications of alternative definitions? Should we try to conserve Species or Ecosystems?
Conclusions Philosophy of Biology currently ‘hot topic’ Focus on Philosophical Implications of Evolutionary Theory Five specific topics: Human Nature Altruism Genetic Programming Conservationism