Date of Award

8-13-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dan Weiskopf

Second Advisor

Andrea Scarantino

Abstract

In this thesis, I reconstruct C. Kenneth Waters’ “practice-centered approach” to philosophy of biology. The objective of the approach is to resolve theoretical debates in biology by appealing to how theories are used to predict and control a phenomenon, not just explain it. By turning our attention to how theories are used in practice (e.g., developing new hypotheses or predicting novel results), we can see that two conceptually incompatible theories can actually coextend. I put the approach to the test with a contemporary case study: the debate between the Standard Evolutionary Theory and Niche Construction Theory. The debate centers on whether to amend the concept of an evolutionary process. Waters argues that the practice-centered approach resolves the debate with a pluralist framework. I argue that a pluralist framework is not warranted in this case, thus demonstrating that Waters’ approach is not a panacea for all theoretical debates in biology.

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