William C. Wimsatt

William C. Wimsatt is Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at the University of Chicago.

  • Levels of Organization in the Biological Sciences

    Daniel S. Brooks, James DiFrisco, and William C. Wimsatt

    Scientific philosophers examine the nature and significance of levels of organization, a core structural principle in the biological sciences.

    This volume examines the idea of levels of organization as a distinct object of investigation, considering its merits as a core organizational principle for the scientific image of the natural world. It approaches levels of organization—roughly, the idea that the natural world is segregated into part–whole relationships of increasing spatiotemporal scale and complexity—in terms of its roles in scientific reasoning as a dynamic, open-ended idea capable of performing multiple overlapping functions in distinct empirical settings.

    The contributors—scientific philosophers with longstanding ties to the biological sciences—discuss topics including the philosophical and scientific contexts for an inquiry into levels; whether the concept can actually deliver on its organizational promises; the role of levels in the development and evolution of complex systems; conditional independence and downward causation; and the extension of the concept into the sociocultural realm. Taken together, the contributions embrace the diverse usages of the term as aspects of the big-picture of levels of organization.

    Contributors

    Jan Baedke, Robert W. Batterman, Daniel S. Brooks, James DiFrisco, Markus I. Eronen, Carl Gillett, James Griesemer, Alan C. Love, Angela Potochnik, Thomas Reydon, Ilya Tëmkin, Jon Umerez, William C. Wimsatt, James Woodward

    • Paperback $60.00
  • Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

    Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

    Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt

    Empirical and philosophical perspectives on scaffolding that highlight the role of temporal and temporary resources in development across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.

    "Scaffolding" is a concept that is becoming widely used across disciplines. This book investigates common threads in diverse applications of scaffolding, including theoretical biology, cognitive science, social theory, science and technology studies, and human development. Despite its widespread use, the concept of scaffolding is often given short shrift; the contributors to this volume, from a range of disciplines, offer a more fully developed analysis of scaffolding that highlights the role of temporal and temporary resources in development, broadly conceived, across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.

    The book emphasizes reproduction, repeated assembly, and entrenchment of heterogeneous relations, parts, and processes as a complement to neo-Darwinism in the developmentalist tradition of conceptualizing evolutionary change. After describing an integration of theoretical perspectives that can accommodate different levels of analysis and connect various methodologies, the book discusses multilevel organization; differences (and reciprocality) between individuals and institutions as units of analysis; and perspectives on development that span brains, careers, corporations, and cultural cycles.

    Contributors Colin Allen, Linnda R. Caporael, James Evans, Elihu M. Gerson, Simona Ginsburg, James R. Griesemer, Christophe Heintz, Eva Jablonka, Sanjay Joshi, Shu-Chen Li, Pamela Lyon, Sergio F. Martinez, Christopher J. May, Johann Peter Murmann, Stuart A. Newman, Jeffrey C. Schank, Iddo Tavory, Georg Theiner, Barbara Hoeberg Wimsatt, William C. Wimsatt

    • Hardcover $67.00

Contributor

  • From Embryology to Evo-Devo

    From Embryology to Evo-Devo

    A History of Developmental Evolution

    Manfred D. Laubichler and Jane Maienschein

    Historians, philosophers, sociologists, and biologists explore the history of the idea that embryological development and evolution are linked.

    Although we now know that ontogeny (individual development) does not actually recapitulate phylogeny (evolutionary transformation), contrary to Ernst Haeckel's famous dictum, the relationship between embryological development and evolution remains the subject of intense scientific interest. In the 1990s a new field, evolutionary developmental biology (or evo-devo), was hailed as the synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology. In From Embryology to Evo-Devo, historians, philosophers, sociologists, and biologists offer diverse perspectives on the history of efforts to understand the links between development and evolution. After examining events in the history of early twentieth century embryology and developmental genetics—including the fate of Haeckel's law and its various reformulations, the ideas of William Bateson, and Richard Goldschmidt's idiosyncratic synthesis of ontogeny and phylogeny—the contributors explore additional topics ranging from the history of comparative embryology in America to a philosophical-historical analysis of different research styles. Finally, three major figures in theoretical biology—Brian Hall, Gerd Müller, and Günter Wagner—reflect on the past and future of evo-devo, particularly on the interdisciplinary nature of the field. The sum is an exciting interdisciplinary exploration of developmental evolution.

    • Hardcover $57.00
    • Paperback $35.00