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Philosophy Speakers: Matt Haber (Utah): "The Individuality Thesis and the Levels of Lineage"

Date & Time:
February 5, 2016 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Social Sciences Tower, Room 1253

About the Talk

Michael Ghiselin and David Hull’s individuality thesis was initially offered in terms of species, i.e., that species are individuals (and not natural kinds, sets, or classes). Much of this discussion initially took place in the context of debates in biological systematics and the emergence of phylogenetics. Here I a re-articulate and defend the individuality thesis as a theoretical perspective, identifying three core commitments: (1) the parity thesis; (2) the history thesis; and (3) the part/whole thesis. I argue that this provides (i) a broader view of the individuality thesis than other recent presentations; (ii) a means for precisely articulating the role it plays in theorizing, explanations, and setting research problems; and (iii) the resources to meet recent philosophical challenges and advances/discoveries from the biological sciences. More specifically, I argue that the individuality thesis is still relevant even faced with challenges to the coherency of the individual/kinds distinction, and with regard to a growing appreciation and accumulation of evidence supporting a high degree of genealogical discordance across lineages. More so, the individuality thesis provides an excellent framing to account for microbial introgression and other lineage complexity, holobiont evolution, and high degrees of persistent, generational symbiosis.

About the Speaker

Matt Haber is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah.  He holds additional appointments at the University of Utah as Associate Faculty in the Center for Quantitative Biology and Associate Faculty in Latin American Studies.  His area of specialty is Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy of Science.  He is interested in the philosophical and conceptual issues in systematics, particularly those stemming from a commitment to phylogenetic thinking. His current projects include elucidating the nature of phylogenetic inference, tracking conceptual debates in biological classification and nomenclature, examining the use of models in phylogenetics, the ontology of biological objects, and accounting for how (and why) scientists shift from one set of theoretical and conceptual commitments to another. Other topics of interest are research ethics, including a project on the ethics of research involving crossing species boundaries (especially the human/non-human boundary).

Matt Haber's Main Website

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