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College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Theorizing at Rowan: Grene and Hull on 'Typological Thinking' in Biology

Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 @ 4:45pm


Phillip Honenberger (Philosophy and Religion) will present a lecture entitled "Grene and Hull on ‘Typological Thinking' in Biology" today at 4:45 p.m. in Bunce Hall, Room 303. 

In a series of papers from the 1940s-1960s, the neo-Darwinian evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr contrasted a Darwinian, "populational" approach to biology with a pre-Darwinian "typological" one, recommending the former over the latter. Recent criticisms of Mayr's influential distinction among historians and philosophers of biology have an important but largely unnoticed precursor in the work of the late twentieth-century philosopher of biology Marjorie Grene (1910-2009). In debate with the philosopher of biology David Hull (1935-2010) over the course of nearly thirty years, Grene argued for the utility and even indispensability of type-concepts ("typological thinking") in biology, whereas Hull (like Mayr) took these to be often misleading and suspicious. In this talk, Phillip Honenberger provides a critical overview of the debates between Grene and Hull in regard to three topics: (1) the dispensability or indispensability of typological thinking in evolutionary theory, paleontology, and taxonomy; (2) the question of whether species ought to be construed as historical individuals (as Hull famously argued), and thereby non-typologically; and (3) the significance of the typology debate for a biologically-informed philosophy of human nature.

Location: Bunce Hall, Room 303