Conference: Recent Trends in the Philosophy of Biology

Philosophy of biology is a field of study that aims to solve conceptual puzzles within the biomedical sciences, as well as illuminate traditional questions in philosophy by appealing to biological knowledge. About 40 years ago, philosophy of biology was still a niche topic in the philosophy of science. Now that the field has matured into a thriving sub-discipline engaging philosophers and biologists alike, it is time to take stock. Where is the field going? What are some of the questions that still require work? And what new methods are available to address them? In an effort to address these issues, this interdisciplinary conference will explore some of the recent trends in the philosophy of biology.

Keynotes: Laura Franklin-Hall (NYU), Barry Loewer (Rutgers), Alexander Rosenberg (Duke), & Elliott Sober (Wisconsin-Madison)*

Speakers: Beate Krickel (Ruhr-University of Bochum), Adrian Currie (Exeter), Thomas Pradeu (CNRS/ Bordeaux), Maël Lemoine (CNRS, Bordeaux), Topaz Halperin & Arnon Levy (Hebrew University),  Mehmet Elgin (Muğla University), & Rafael Ventura (Bilkent University).

Photos from the conference: click here.

Videos of presentations: click here.

Dates: May 17-18, 2019

Conference program: click here.

Poster: click here.

Host Department: Philosophy, Bilkent University


Participant Biographies:  

Laura Franklin-Hall is Associate Professor of Philosophy at New York University. Laura holds a PhD in Philosophy (Columbia 2008) and a BS in Biological Sciences (Stanford 2000), and is interested in problems in the philosophy of biology, the general philosophy of science, and metaphysics. She is the author of several papers in philosophy journals such as Philosophy of ScienceBritish Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceBiology and Philosophy, and Philosophical Studies, as well as in biology journals such as Journal of NeurochemistryNeuroscience LettersNeurochemical Research, and Biology Direct. Web:  

Elliott Sober works on the philosophy of science, with a special emphasis on the philosophy of biology. He is Hans Reichenbach Professor and William F. Vilas Research Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of 12 books, including Ockham’s Razors: A Users Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Evidence and Evolution (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology (MIT Press, 2006). His earlier book, The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, (University of Chicago Press, 1984) played a major role in developing the philosophy of biology as a subject. He is the author of more than 200 scholarly articles in journals such as Philosophical StudiesPhilosophy and Phenomenological ResearchJournal of PhilosophyPhilosophy of SciencePhilosophical Review, and Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Sober is one of the most influential contemporary philosophers specializing in the philosophy of biology. Web: *

*Due to unforeseen circumstances, Elliott Sober was unable to attend the conference in person. His pre-recorded talk can be found here.

Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and holds secondary appointments in the biology and political science departments. Alex has been a visiting professor at many universities, including Oxford University and more recently the Philosophy Department at the Research School of Social Science of the Australian National University and the University of Bristol. He has held fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. In 1993 Alex received the Lakatos Award in the philosophy of science. He has written more than a dozen academic books, including  (with Daniel McShea) Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Approach (Routledge, 2007), Darwinian Reductionism or How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology (University of Chicago Press, 2006), Instrumental Biology or the Disunity of Science (University of Chicago Press, 1994), and The Structure of Biological Science (Cambridge University Press, 1985). He is also the author of over 200 hundred papers in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Journal of Philosophy, Biology and Philosophy,and Behavioral and Brain Sciences.  Web: 

Barry Loewer works on the philosophy of science and metaphysics. He is Distinguished Professor in the Philosophy Department at Rutgers’ University at New Brunswick. He has published numerous articles in leading journals, including Philosophical Studies, Philosophy of SciencePhilosophy and Phenomenological ResearchNous, and the Journal of Philosophy. In 2008 he published his influential book Why There Is Anything Except Physics (Oxford University Press), in which he explains how there can be autonomous special science laws, such as laws of biology, chemistry, and neuroscience that are not reducible to the laws of physics, even though physics is fundamental and complete. Web:  

Arnon Levy is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Hebrew University, specializing in the philosopher of science and biology. He received his PhD in Philosophy from Harvard in 2010 and was Polonsky Postdoctoral Fellow, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute from 2010 to 2014. His research focuses on modeling and scientific explanation in the life sciences. He is also interested in the connections between evolutionary theory, social behavior , and morality. He has publications in leading journals such as Journal of PhilosophyNousPhilosophical Studies, and Philosophy of Science. Web:  

Beate Krickel is the principal investigator of the Research Training Group for Situated Cognition at Ruhr-University of Bochum. Before that, she worked as an Assistant Professor at the Philosophy Department II of Ruhr-University Bochum. She received her PhD from Humboldt University. Her research encompasses the causation/constitution distinction in the debate on situated cognition, the nature of the unconscious mind, and the metaphysics of biological mechanisms. She is the author of The Mechanical World – The Metaphysical Commitments of the New Mechanistic Approach (Springer, 2018), and has published in journals such as British Journal for the Philosophy of SciencePhilosophical PsychologyErkenntnis, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. Web:  

Adrian Currie is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter. He is interested in the scientific method: how do scientists generate knowledge and why does it work? I don’t think there’s a particularly interesting general answer to this question. Much of his research focuses on the ‘historical’ sciences: paleontology, archaeology, geology and so forth. He argues that both philosophers and methodologically reflective scientists have underestimated the epistemic resources available for uncovering the deep past, and have missed the power of such sciences.  He is the author of Rock, Bone & Ruin: An Optimist’s Guide to the Historical Sciences (MIT Press, 2018), and has published in journals such as Biology & PhilosophyMind & LanguageBritish Journal for the Philosophy of SciencePhilosophers’ ImprintCanadian Journal of Philosophy, and History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. Web:

Thomas Pradeu is Senior Researcher in Philosophy of Science at CNRS and Group Leader in ImmunoConcEpT at the University of Bordeaux. He is also Coordinator of the Institute for Philosophy in Biology and Medicine and Associated Member of the IHPST and the Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University. He is the author of The Limits of the Self: Immunology and Biological Identity (Oxford University Press, 2012), editor with A. Guay of Individuals Across the Sciences (Oxford University Press,  2016), and has published in PNASBiology & PhilosophyStudies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical SciencesNature Reviews ImmunologyBiological Theory, and Science.  He recently published an opinion piece in PNAS, along with Elliott Sober and others, entitled Why science needs philosophy. Web:

Maël Lemoine is Professor at the University of Bordeaux and researcher in the group “Conceptual and theoretical analysis of immune activation and biological boundaries”. He is a philosopher of medicine with research focuses on the definition of health and disease, on precision medicine, and on research methods in preclinical studies. He is also involved in various collaborations around the world (Columbia University, University College London, University of Sydney) and in France (e.g. DataSanté research project on big data and medicine at University of Nantes). He has published in several journals, including Behavioral and Brain ScienceSyntheseStudies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical ScienceWeb:  

Mehmet Elgin is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Muğla University. He specializes in the philosophy of biology and especially the role of explanatory laws in biology. He received his PhD from University of Wisconsin-Madison under the supervision of Elliot Sober. He has published in journals such as Biology & PhilosophyPhilosophy of ScienceHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, and Australasian Journal of Philosophy. Web:  

Rafael Ventura is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Bilkent University. He completed his MA at the Humboldt-Universität in 2012 and obtained his PhD at Duke University in 2018. One of the keynotes, Alex Rosenberg, was his doctoral supervisor. His work falls primarily within the philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of language. He is particularly interested in the philosophical implications of biological and cultural evolution, as well as in the use of quantitative methods in philosophy, such as model-based and data-driven approaches. He has recently published in Synthese and in Fungal Ecology. Web:  



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