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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Philosophical Issues in Evolution MSc (PHIL11083)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will offer detailed seminars on key philosophical issues in evolution and evolutionary theory. No background in biology or life-sciences will be assumed, and the course is intended to be accessible to students with a wide range of philosophical interests and aptitudes.

Shared with UG course PHIL10106 Philosophical Issues in Evolution

For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
Course description This course surveys major topics in the contemporary philosophy of biology, with a special focus on issues related to evolutionary explanation.

Specific topics covered include:
* The logic of evolutionary explanation
* The debate on the units of selection
* Adaptationism: its claims and counterarguments
* Modeling as a research method in biology and ecology
* The status of laws in biology
* Case study: race. Are racial categories scientifically legitimate biological kinds?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate core skills in philosophy, including the ability to interpret and engage with philosophical texts, to evaluate arguments, and to develop one¿s own critical ideas in response
  2. understand and articulate key concepts in philosophy of biology
  3. understand and articulate the logical structure of evolutionary explanation; identify and discuss critically debates about the targets of evolutionary explanation
  4. understand and articulate the criteria for a legitimate scientific concept in biology; ability to discuss these criteria critically for the specific example of racial categories
Reading List
Representative reading list:
Sterelny & Griffiths (1999) Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology
Godfrey-Smith (2014) Philosophy of Biology
Dawkins (1982) The Extended Phenotype
Gould & Lewontin (1979) 'The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme'
Additional Information
Course URL Please see Learn page
Graduate Attributes and Skills Ability to analyse philosophical arguments
Ability to assess scientific results from a philosophical perspective
Ability to articulate and defend positions in a philosophical debate
KeywordsPhilosophy of Biology; Evolution; Modeling; Explanation
Course organiserDr Alistair Isaac
Tel: (0131 6)51 5174
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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