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Philosophy of Biology, 2nd Edition (Dimensions of Philosophy) 2nd Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813391267
ISBN-10: 0813391261
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'This is a very useful volume with generally clear and succinct discussions of what the author sees as the dominant conceptual issues in biology.' Network, December 1993, No. 53

'elegant and lucid explanations of technical material ... this is an excellent book that is hard to fault ... It deserves a place on the shortlist of anyone contemplating teaching an introductory unit on philosophy of science or philosophy of biology.' The Times Higher

`A great book for beginning graduate students who want to get an overview of topics of classic concern in philosophy of biology.' Teaching Philosophy --This text refers to the Print on Demand (Paperback) edition.

About the Author

Elliott Sober is Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is editor of Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology and author of The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, as well as many papers on the philosophy of science and of biology. In 1991 he was awarded the Lakatos Award for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science for his book Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Interference.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; 2nd edition (January 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813391261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813391267
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In brief this was one of the best books I read in 1995. While the book is
a splendid introduction to an exciting topic, it has numerous special
insights and clarifying presentations. It keeps close to biology demonstrating
some fascinating respects in which biology and its theorists
raise special issues in the philosophy of science. The book
would go well with one of the main philosophy of natural sciences
textbooks.
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I am using this text in a Philosophy of Biology course on Darwinism together with writings from several other sources including Ridly and Dawkins. It works well in such a situation. While not purely a Phil/Bio book, it does contain information that is pertinent. Also, it is written by a well-established and respected author who specializes in Philosophy of Biology. The book is easy to read and informative. It explores some off-hand topics such as the ability of science to prove adaptationism within evolution (maybe more Phil/Science?). Nevertheless, if used with other texts, I would recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
I will not deny that Elliott Sober's work is illuminating and comprehensive. What concerns me is that his book is not one on the philosophy of biology. Rather, it is a work on the philosophy of evolutionary theory.

Within it's own scope it's fine, although potential buyers should note that there are much better introductions to the subject (see Mayr 1988, 1999 or 2004, Rosenberg 1985, and Sober's anthology: 'Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology'). In addition, Sober's philosophical background makes his writing style unnecessarily complicated, often attempting to impress the reader making irrelevant comparisons and references.

What is most unfortunate is his choice of title. This book does not in any way represent or exemplify the current concerns of the practicing biologist. Sober ignores most areas of biology as if they didn't exist, focusing solely on evolution. Books like this one really harm the discipline of philosophy of biology, as they make the public think that this exciting new discipline can be effectively reduced to the study of evolutionary theory. As a biologist myself, I doubt that more than 5% of all practicing biologists are engaged in traditional evolutionary studies. Since the 1960s, the emphasis has been on the molecular aspect of life, and the philosophy of biology should similarly attempt to address issues arising from molecular concepts and research. A few books have been written that emphasise the molecular and experimental aspect that defines modern biology. See for example Weber's Philosophy of Experimental Biology (2005), or Sarkar's 'Molecular Models of Life'.

For those looking for a general introduction to the philosophy of biology, I would recommend Sterelny and Griffiths' (1999) 'Sex and Death' since it successfully covers a very wide range of biological topics, not just evolution. Books like Sober's 'Philosophy of Biology' are misleading both in their content and in their approach to the subject.
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