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Neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but organicism: what the philosophy of biology was.
Hist Philos Life Sci. 2015 Dec; 37(4):345-81.HP

Abstract

Philosophy of biology is often said to have emerged in the last third of the twentieth century. Prior to this time, it has been alleged that the only authors who engaged philosophically with the life sciences were either logical empiricists who sought to impose the explanatory ideals of the physical sciences onto biology, or vitalists who invoked mystical agencies in an attempt to ward off the threat of physicochemical reduction. These schools paid little attention to actual biological science, and as a result philosophy of biology languished in a state of futility for much of the twentieth century. The situation, we are told, only began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a new generation of researchers began to focus on problems internal to biology, leading to the consolidation of the discipline. In this paper we challenge this widely accepted narrative of the history of philosophy of biology. We do so by arguing that the most important tradition within early twentieth-century philosophy of biology was neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but the organicist movement that flourished between the First and Second World Wars. We show that the organicist corpus is thematically and methodologically continuous with the contemporary literature in order to discredit the view that early work in the philosophy of biology was unproductive, and we emphasize the desirability of integrating the historical and contemporary conversations into a single, unified discourse.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Centre for the Study of Life Sciences (Egenis), University of Exeter, Byrne House, St. German's Road, Exeter, EX4 4PJ, UK. dan.j.nicholson@gmail.com.Center for the Philosophy of Biology, Duke University, 201 West Duke Building, Box 90743, Durham, NC, 27708, USA.

Pub Type(s)

Historical Article
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Language

eng

PubMed ID

26452775

Citation

Nicholson, Daniel J., and Richard Gawne. "Neither Logical Empiricism nor Vitalism, but Organicism: what the Philosophy of Biology Was." History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, vol. 37, no. 4, 2015, pp. 345-81.
Nicholson DJ, Gawne R. Neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but organicism: what the philosophy of biology was. Hist Philos Life Sci. 2015;37(4):345-81.
Nicholson, D. J., & Gawne, R. (2015). Neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but organicism: what the philosophy of biology was. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 37(4), 345-81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-015-0085-7
Nicholson DJ, Gawne R. Neither Logical Empiricism nor Vitalism, but Organicism: what the Philosophy of Biology Was. Hist Philos Life Sci. 2015;37(4):345-81. PubMed PMID: 26452775.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but organicism: what the philosophy of biology was. AU - Nicholson,Daniel J, AU - Gawne,Richard, Y1 - 2015/10/09/ PY - 2015/04/17/received PY - 2015/09/03/accepted PY - 2015/10/11/entrez PY - 2015/10/11/pubmed PY - 2016/3/5/medline KW - History of philosophy of biology KW - Logical empiricism KW - Organicism KW - Theoretical biology KW - Vitalism SP - 345 EP - 81 JF - History and philosophy of the life sciences JO - Hist Philos Life Sci VL - 37 IS - 4 N2 - Philosophy of biology is often said to have emerged in the last third of the twentieth century. Prior to this time, it has been alleged that the only authors who engaged philosophically with the life sciences were either logical empiricists who sought to impose the explanatory ideals of the physical sciences onto biology, or vitalists who invoked mystical agencies in an attempt to ward off the threat of physicochemical reduction. These schools paid little attention to actual biological science, and as a result philosophy of biology languished in a state of futility for much of the twentieth century. The situation, we are told, only began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a new generation of researchers began to focus on problems internal to biology, leading to the consolidation of the discipline. In this paper we challenge this widely accepted narrative of the history of philosophy of biology. We do so by arguing that the most important tradition within early twentieth-century philosophy of biology was neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but the organicist movement that flourished between the First and Second World Wars. We show that the organicist corpus is thematically and methodologically continuous with the contemporary literature in order to discredit the view that early work in the philosophy of biology was unproductive, and we emphasize the desirability of integrating the historical and contemporary conversations into a single, unified discourse. SN - 0391-9714 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/26452775/Neither_logical_empiricism_nor_vitalism_but_organicism:_what_the_philosophy_of_biology_was_ L2 - https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40656-015-0085-7 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -
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