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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Lynn Hankinson Nelson
PHIL 481
Seattle Campus

Philosophy of Biology

Study of several current topics in philosophy of biology, which may include the logical structure of evolutionary theory, fitness, taxonomy, the concept of a living thing, reductionism, the concept of a biological species, evolutionary explanations, and philosophical consequences of sociology. Prerequisite: one PHIL course; recommended: college-level course in biological science.

Class description

This course will consider conceptual issues involving evolutionary biology. (The official description above should not mention 'sociology' but 'sociobiology' or 'evolutionary psychology'. Philosophy of biology is one of the more dynamic fields in philosophy of science, and biologists as well as philosophers regularly engage with it. TEXTS: "Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology", E. Sober, ed.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

I use a combination of brief lectures at the beginning and end of class meetings, and discussion for the remainder.

Recommended preparation

It is strongly recommended that students have had a prior philosophy course (logic included) and less importantly, one college level course in biology.

Class assignments and grading

Short formal papers (3) and written reviews as assigned, a group project, and attendance and participation.

Writing assignments (formal papers and short reviews) will count (roughly) for 60% of the grade. Participation in class discussions and a group project for roughly 40% of the grade.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Lynn Hankinson Nelson
Date: 02/24/2013