•  58
    Grene and Hull on types and typological thinking in biology
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 50 13-25. 2015.
    Marjorie Grene (1910-2009) and David Hull (1935-2010) were among the most influential voices in late twentieth-century philosophy of biology. But, as Grene and Hull pointed out in published discussions of one another’s work over the course of nearly forty years, they disagreed strongly on fundamental issues. Among these contested issues is the role of what is sometimes called “typology” and “typological thinking” in biology. In regard to taxonomy and the species problem, Hull joined Ernst Mayr’s…Read more
  •  56
    Darwin among the Philosophers: Hull and Ruse on Darwin, Herschel, and Whewell
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2): 278-309. 2018.
    In a series of articles and books published in the 1970s, David Hull (1935–2010) and Michael Ruse (1940–) proposed interpretations of the relation between nineteenth-century British philosophy of science, on the one hand, and the views and methods of Charles Darwin, on the other, that were incompatible or at least in strong interpretive tension with one another. According to Hull, John Herschel’s and William Whewell’s philosophies of science were logically incompatible with Darwin’s revolutionar…Read more
  •  52
    History, Before and Beyond the Limit
    Journal of the Philosophy of History 4 (3-4): 274-295. 2010.
    What is the relation between past and present, and what role does historical research, writing and thinking play in regards to that relation? Does it, for instance, primarily record the features of objective breaks and continuities between past and future (as A. Danto has it) or does it rather institute those breaks and continuities (as C. Fasolt has recently argued)? Here I stress that historical understanding is a basic dimension of understanding in general, including understanding of the rela…Read more
  •  42
    Animality, Sociality, and Historicity in Helmuth Plessner’s Philosophical Anthropology
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (5): 707-729. 2015.
    Axel Honneth and Hans Joas claim that Helmuth Plessner’s philosophical anthropology is problematically ‘solipsistic’ insofar as it fails to appreciate the ways in which human persons or selves are brought into being and given their characteristic powers of reflection and action by social processes. Here I review the main argument of Plessner’s Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch: Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie with this criticism in mind, giving special attention to Plessne…Read more
  •  40
    Eccentric Investigations of (Post-)Humanity
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 46 (1): 56-76. 2016.
    In 1928, a German zoologist and philosopher named Helmuth Plessner published a book titled Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch: Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie. Almost a 100 years later, Jos de Mul has edited a collection of 26 new essays on Plessner’s text, titled Plessner’s Philosophical Anthropology: Perspectives and Prospects. The volume offers a variety of advanced discussions of its theme. In this review essay of de Mul’s collection, I provide a critical overview of th…Read more
  •  30
    When the results of an experiment appears to disconfirm a hypothesis, how does one know whether it’s the hypothesis, or rather some auxiliary hypothesis or assumption, that is at fault? Philosophers’ answers to this question, now known as “Duhem’s problem,” have differed widely. Despite these differences, we affirm Duhem’s original position that the logical structure of this problem alone does not allow a solution. A survey of philosophical approaches to Duhem’s problem indicates that what allow…Read more
  •  29
    Ethics, Hermeneutics, and Eudaimonics
    International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (2): 243-256. 2010.
    Contemporary ethical theory ought to take both the biological and cultural constitution of human subjects into account. But the coupling of these constraints raises questions about the scope of each. In this paper I defend the view that, rather than predetermining human moral sensibility, or founding a universal ethic on that basis, the biological constitution of human beings actually prefigures their wide variability across cultures and argues for the open-endedness of questions of meaning and …Read more
  •  25
    Translating Plessner’s Levels
    with Millay Hyatt
    Human Studies 42 (1): 13-30. 2019.
    We recount the process by which Plessner’s Levels was rendered into English, noting special difficulties of the task. We then discuss particular words and word groupings, the adequate translation of which required special care. Finally, we consider an example of the kind of collaborative procedure employed and the difficulties faced along the way.
  •  23
    There are at least two senses in which human beings can be called “naturally artificial”: being adapted for creation of and participation in niche constructed environments, and being adapted for creation of and participation in such environments despite an exceptional indeterminacy in the details of the niche constructed environments themselves. The former puts human beings in a common category with many niche-constructing organisms while the latter is arguably distinctive of our species. I expl…Read more
  •  18
    All Knowledge Is Orientation: Marjorie Grene’s Ecological Epistemology
    In Giuseppe Bianco, Charles T. Wolfe & Gertrudis Van de Vijver (eds.), Canguilhem and Continental Philosophy of Biology, Springer. pp. 39-60. 2023.
    In the course of a more than 70-year philosophical career and over 100 publications, Marjorie Grene (1910–2009) developed an original and coherent philosophical position that placed situated organic life at the center of the interpretation of reality and human affairs. Grene sometimes described this position as an “ecological epistemology” and summarized its central thrust in the expression “all knowledge is orientation.” However, Grene’s view incorporated a set of apparently or potentially oppo…Read more
  •  8
    What is a human being? The twentieth and twenty-first century tradition known as 'philosophical anthropology' has approached this question with unusual sophistication, experimentalism, and subtlety. Such innovations as Arnold Gehlen's description of humans as naturally 'deficient' beings in need of artificial institutions to survive; Max Scheler's concept of 'spirit' (Geist) as the physically and organically irreducible realm of persons and spiritual acts; and Helmuth Plessner's analysis of the …Read more