Senior Lecturer


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 273679
The University of Aberdeen Room OBG13
Web Links



I joined the department in 2009, after being a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge and King’s College London, and a Teaching Associate at the University of Bristol. I received my MA and PhD (2006) from King’s College London. Before coming to the UK, I studied biology in Germany and the USA and obtained a PhD in zoology. In 2016, I was a Visiting Professor for the Philosophy of the Life Sciences at Utrecht University. 


Research Interests

Philosophy of Science, especially the History and Philosophy of Biology

My research focuses on causation in biology, mechanistic explanation, and the nature of purportedly informational or representational phenomena. Much of my work addresses these issues in the context of molecular biology and animal behaviour studies. The overall goal of my work is a better understanding of biology as it is actually practiced, its fundamental concepts, its ontological commitments, its tools and methods. Some of my work employs historical research to address the philosophical issues at stake.

Curently I work on the following projects:

1) A monograph about the theoretical roles of genetic information and genetic coding (under contract with Springer). I investigate how these metaphors were used in practice by the scientists who first promoted their use in the 1950s. This is a project in integrated HPS.

2) A paper on the role of diagrammes in biological research. This paper also adopts the integrated HPS approach.



Edited Book

2013: Animal Communication Theory: Information and Influence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 452 pp. [link]        Reviewed in Current Biology and The Quarterly Review of Biology

Articles and Chapters

Forthcoming: Evolution and information - an overview. In Richard Joyce (ed.): Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy. Routledge. [draft]

2016: The philosophy of communication and information. In Luciano Floridi (ed.): Routledge Handbook in Philosophy of Information, Routledge, pp. 304-317.  [draft]

2016: 'Genetic coding' reconsidered: an analysis of actual usage. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 67: 707-730.  [PDF]

2015: Prospects for probabilistic theories of natural information. Erkenntnis. 80 (4): 869-893. [link] [draft]

2014: Causal control and genetic causation. Noûs, 48 (3): 450-465.  [link] [draft]

2013: A primer on information and influence in animal communication. In U. Stegmann (ed.), Animal Communication Theory. CUP. [draft]

2013: On the 'transmission sense of information'. Biology and Philosophy, 28 (1): 141-144. [discussion note] [link] 

2012: Varieties of parity. Biology and Philosophy, 27 (6): 903-918. [link]

2010: Reply to Bence Nanay's 'Natural selection and the limited nature of environmental resources'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 41: 418-419. [discussion note] [link]

2010: What Can Natural Selection Explain? Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 41: 61-66. [link]

2009: A Consumer-Based Teleosemantics for Animal Signals. Philosophy of Science, 76: 864-875. [link]

2009: DNA, Inference, and Information. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 60: 1-17. [link]

2005: Genetic information as instructional content. Philosophy of Science, 72: 425-443. [link]

2005: John Maynard Smith's notion of animal signals. Biology and Philosophy, 20: 1011-1025. [link]

2005: Die Adaptationismus-Debatte. In: Krohs, U. & Toepfer, G. (eds.): Philosophie der Biologie: Eine Einführung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, pp. 287-303.

2005: Der Begriff der genetischen Information. In: Krohs, U. & Toepfer, G. (eds.): Philosophie der Biologie: Eine Einführung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, pp. 212-230.

2004: The arbitrariness of the genetic code. Biology and Philosophy, 19: 205-222. [link]

2004: Theorien und Verwendungsweisen des Informationsbegriffs in der Genetik. In: Bluhm, R. & Nimtz, C. (eds.): Ausgewählte Beiträge zu den Sektionen der GAP.5, 5. Internationaler Kongress der Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie, Bielefeld, 22.-26. September 2003. Paderborn: mentis.

 Book Reviews

2010: Book review of Brian Garvey, Philosophy of Biology, Stocksfield: Acumen, 2007. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 61: 235-236.

2007: Book review of Robert A. Wilson, Genes and the Agents of Life. The Individual in the Fragile Sciences, Cambridge: CUP, 2005. Mind, 116: 238-240.

2007: Book review of Alexander Rosenberg, Darwinian Reductionism – Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology, University of Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 47: 899-900.

2005: Book review of Jason Scott Robert, Embryology, Epigenesis, and Evolution: Taking Development Seriously, Cambridge: CUP, 2004. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 27: 300-302.

2004: Book review of Graham Gordon, Genes. A Philosophical Inquiry, London: Routledge, 2002. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 24: 451-452.

 Biology (Selection)

Stegmann, U. E. and K. E. Linsenmair 2002: Assessing the semelparity hypothesis: Egg-guarding and fecundity in an iteroparous treehopper. Ethology, 108 (10): 857-869.

--  and K. E. Linsenmair 2002: Subsocial and aggregating behaviour in Southeast Asian treehoppers (Homoptera: Membracidae). European Journal of Entomology, 99: 29-34.

--  and M. D. Webb, K. E. Linsenmair 2002: New species, synonymies, and life-histories of the Southeast Asian treehopper genus Pyrgauchenia Breddin (Homoptera: Membracidae: Centrotinae).Journal of Natural History, 36: 279-303.

--  1998: An 'exaggerated' trait in insects: the prothoracic skeleton of Stictocephala bisonia (Homoptera: Membracidae). Journal of Morphology, 238: 157-178.

--  and P. J. A. Kessler, M. M. Sofian, M. Bin Lakim, K. E. Linsenmair 1998: Natural history of the treehopper Gigantorhabdus enderleini. Malayan Nature Journal, 52 (3&4): 241-249.

--  1997: Revaluation of the prothoracic pleuron of the Membracidae (Homoptera): the presence of an epimeron and a subdivided episternum in Stictocephala bisonia Kopp & Yonke, Oxyrhachis taranda (Fabr.), and Centrotus cornutus (L.). International Journal of Insect Morphology and Embryology, 26 (1): 35-42.


Teaching Responsibilities


PH2033 Science and Philosophy II

This course introduces students to selected topics in general philosophy of science and in the philosophy of the special sciences. Here are some of the questions we will consider: Are scientific experiments only employed in order to test hypotheses or also to explore phenomena? Does or should science promote reductionism when explaining phenomena? Are there applications of philosophy of science for health policy? Among the special sciences, we will explore topics in chemistry (natural kinds), the life sciences (biological functions), and psychology (the mind/brain as a computer).


ME33PM Philosophy of Medicine

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of medicine. It focuses on foundational and theoretical (metaphysical and epistemological) issues in medicine. The topics are chosen to provide students with an overview of some of the most central questions in this area. Among the prospective topics are the notions of disease, illness, and health; the medical model of psychiatric disorders and its critics; the nature of evidence-based medicine and the epistemic status of randomized controlled trials; methodological challenges of using animal models in biomedical research; the requirements for establishing causal claims about disease etiologies; and the role of images and videos for biomedical research.


Access Course - Section 'Mind and Body'

Some of the greatest philosophers have grappled with the question of how our minds relate to our bodies. While this question is still unresolved, over the centuries philosophers have investigated many possible answers, and this has led to a much better understanding of what is at stake. We will explore two influential, but diametrically opposed answers to the mind-body problem. One is that the mind and the brain are two very different kinds of things, a view defended by Descartes in the 17th century. The opposite view rose to prominence in the 20th century and holds that the mind is identical to brain states.

Further Info



What can the Philosophy of Biology learn from the History of Biology?

First Utrecht Workshop in Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 19-20 March 2016

Hosted by the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, Utrecht University

Confirmed speakers:

William Bechtel (San Diego), Ingo Brigandt (Alberta), Kärin Nickelsen (Munich), Sabina Leonelli (Exeter), Sahotra Sarkar (Austin), Raphael Scholl (Cambridge), Bert Theunissen (Utrecht), Joeri Witteveen (Utrecht).

Questions about the interrelation between the history of science and the philosophy of science have received renewed attention in recent years. This workshop focuses on the life sciences and asks how we might employ historical findings and approaches in order to shed light on questions in the philosophy of biology. The workshop aims to take stock of previous work in this domain, to highlight current lines of research, and to identify challenges and opportunities for the future. 

Contact: Ulrich Stegmann; u.stegmann [at] abdn.ac.uk

Programme and Abstracts

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