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PH454K: GENES, BRAINS AND EVOLUTION (2017-2018)

Last modified: 13 Sep 2017 14:59


Course Overview

Over the last decades philosophy of biology has matured into a dynamic field of philosophical inquiry. Apart from reflecting on specific findings and controversies within the life sciences, such inquiry can shed light on debates in general philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. This course examines both classical topics and more recent developments. It will address questions such as: Do genes really carry information or is this just a metaphor? What does it mean to say that the function of the heart is to pump blood? Are biological species natural kinds? Do animals have beliefs and desires? 

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
Co-ordinators
  • Dr Ulrich Stegmann

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Programme Level 4 or Programme Level 5
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?

None.

What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?

No

Course Description

Content: The life sciences cover a broad range of disciplines, from molecular genetics, neuroscience and developmental biology to physiology, evolutionary biology, ethology, and ecology. Philosophers of biology explore the key concepts and fundamental methodologies employed in these disciplines. Over the last decades philosophy of biology has matured into a separate and dynamic field of philosophical inquiry. Apart from reflecting on specific findings and controversies within the life sciences, such exploration can shed light on debates in general philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. This course provides an introduction to the field by examining some classical topics as well as more recent developments. It will address questions such as: Do genes really carry information or is "information" simply a colourful metaphor for ordinary causal processes? What does it mean to say that the function of the heart is to pump blood? Can such teleological descriptions be "naturalised"? Do biological species have essences or are they collections of spatio-temporally extended objects? Are we ever justified in attributing beliefs and desires to animals?

Further Information & Notes

No advanced knowledge of biology is required. The biological background will be provided in the lectures and tutorials/seminars. Students should be willing to familiarize themselves with this background.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed

None.

Contact Teaching Time

Sorry, we don't have that information available.

Teaching Breakdown


Assessment

1st attempt:

Participation (10%)

Presentation (10%)

Pre-tutorial quizzes (20%)

Essay (25%)

Take-home exam (35%)

Formative Assessment

Feedback on essays; individually arranged conversations during office hours/by appointment.

Feedback

Written on essay and marking sheet; office hours/appointment.

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