University of Pennsylvania

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University of Pennsylvania Philosophy Department

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I. Faculty working in philosophy of biology

Karen Detlefsen (Associate Professor of Philosophy and Education) Research Interests

  • History of philosophy of science
  • History of modern philosophy
  • Early modern women philosophers

Recent Publications

  • (2014) Biology and theology in Malebranche’s theory of organic generation. In Ohad Nachtomy and Justin E. H. Smith (eds.), The Life Sciences in Early Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press. 137-156.
  • (2013) Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (1):207-209.
  • (2013). Teleology and natures in Descartes' Sixth Meditation. In Descartes' Meditations: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press. 153-176.

Gary Hatfield (Professor of Philosophy)

Research Interests

  • History of modern philosophy
  • Philosophy of psychology
  • Theories of vision
  • Philosophy of science

Recent Publications

  • (2014) The Cartesian psychology of Antoine Le Grande. In Mihnea Dobre and Tammy Nyden (eds), Cartesian Skepticisms, Springer. 251-274.
  • (2014) Activity and passivity in theories of perception: Descartes to Kant. In Jose Filipe Silva and Mikko Yrjonsuri (eds), Active Perception in the History of Philosophy: From Plato to Modern Philosophy, Springer. 275-289.
  • (2013) Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture, ed. Gary Hatfield and Holly Pittman. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Quayshawn Spencer (Assistant Professor)

Research Interests

  • Metaphysics of race
  • The nature of biological populations
  • Metaphysical issues in population genetics and systematics
  • History of genetics
  • The natural kind realism debate

Recent Publications

  • (2014) A radical solution to the race problem. Philosophy of Science 81(5): 1025-1038.
  • (2014) The unnatural racial naturalism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 46:38-43.
  • (2013) Biological theory and the metaphysics of race: a reply to Kaplan and Winther. Biological Theory 8(1): 114-120.
  • (2012) What 'Biological Racial Realism' should mean. Philosophical Studies 159(2):181-204.

Current and Future Research

  • Philosophy of race meets population genetics (under review)
  • Do humans have continental populations? (manuscript)
  • Book manuscript on race and biology
  • Future projects will explore (1) phylogenetics, race, and human populations and (2) medical genetics and racial discrimination, and (3) the metaphysics of race (book)

Michael Weisberg (Associate Professor)

Research Interests

  • Evolutionary theory
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Agent-based models in evolution and ecology
  • Origin of life
  • Biology and race
  • Public understanding of evolution

Recent Publications

  • (2014) Understanding the emergence of population behavior in individual-based models, Philosophy of Science 81(5):785-797.
  • (2014) Remeasuring man. Evolution & Development 16:166–178.
  • (2013) Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World, Oxford University Press.

Current and Future Research

  • Gene-culture evolutionary theory
  • Origin of life chemistry
  • Application of agent-based models to complex inheritance systems and biological processes
  • Confirmation theory for idealized models of complex systems
  • Public understanding of evolutionary biology

II. Faculty in related areas of philosophy of science

Christina Bicchieri (Professor of Philosophy and Psychology)

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of social science
  • Judgment and decisionmaking
  • Social norms
  • Epistemic foundations of game theory

Recent Publications

  • (2013) (with Alex K. Chavez) Norm manipulation, norm evasion: experimental evidence. Economics and Philosophy 29(2):175-198.
  • (2013) (with Hugo Mercier) Self-serving biases and public justifications in trust games. Synthese 190(5):909-922.

Zoltan Domotor (Professor of Philosophy)

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of science
  • Applied logic
  • Epistemology
  • Cognitive science

Recent Publications

  • (2008) (with Vadim Batitsky) The analytic versus representational theory of measurement: A philosophy of science perspective. Measurement Science Review 8(6):129-146.
  • (2007) (with Vadim Batitsky) When good theories make bad predictions. Synthese 157(1):79 - 103.

Daniel Singer (Assistant Professor)

Research Interests

  • Epistemology
  • Epistemic normativity
  • General philosophy of science

Recent Publications

  • (2014) Sleeping Beauty should be imprecise. Synthese 191(14):3159-3172.
  • (forthcoming) (with Grim, Fisher, and Reade) Germs, genes, and memes. Philosophy of Science.

Scott Weinstein (Professor)

Research Interests

  • Computational learning theory
  • Descriptive complexity theory
  • Finite model theory
  • Mathematical logic
  • Philosophy of mathematics

Recent Publications

  • (2014) (with Daniel Osherson) Deontic modality based on preference. arXiv:1409.0824.
  • (2012) (with Daniel Osherson) Preference based on reasons. The Review of Symbolic Logic 5(1):122-147.

III. Organized research groups focusing on philosophy of biology research

Weisberg Research Group website

  • Meets weekly to discuss recent papers
  • Provides feedback on paper drafts, practice talks, and conference abstracts
  • Facilitates interdisciplinary discussion (members include philosophers, biologists, psychologists, engineers, and historians of science)

IV. Opportunities for studying the history of biology

Penn’s department of History and Sociology of Science offers a number of graduate courses in history of biology, broadly construed. Recent examples include Biology in the Last Century (Fall 2009), Environmental History (Spring 2014), History of Medicine (Fall 2014), and a seminar on Genetics and Genomics (Fall 2014).

V. Opportunities for studying biology and pursuing biology research

Graduate students in philosophy may take up to three courses for credit outside of philosophy; students interested in philosophy of biology have taken graduate courses and seminars in the biology department, including Advanced Evolution, Advanced Ecology, Plant Ecology, and an Advanced Topics course on Social Evolution. The biology department welcomes philosophers of biology participating in its weekly Ecolunch Ecology and Evolution talk series and regular departmental seminars.

Two current graduate students are active research members of laboratories in the Biology Department: Karen Kovaka has been working in Timothy Linksvayer’s lab since 2013 studying social evolution in ants, and Emily Parke has been working in Paul Sniegowski’s lab since 2010 studying the evolution of mutation rates in E. coli.

VI. Current graduate students in philosophy of biology

Shereen Chang

  • Specialties: animal cognition

Karen Kovaka

  • Specialities: individuality, social evolution, biological inheritance, ecology, environmental policy

Emily C. Parke // website

  • Specialties: experimental biology, experimental evolution, evolution of mutation rates, astrobiology and the origin of life

Carlos Santana

  • Specialities: ecology/conservation biology, cultural evolution, human evolution

VII. Recent graduate students in philosophy of biology

Matt Bateman, 2012

  • Head of Curriculum and Pedagogy at LePort Schools
  • Specialities: cognitive neuroscience, experimentation

Alkistis Elliott-Graves, 2014

  • Postdoctoral Fellow at The Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University
  • Specialities: ecology, invasion biology