Essence in the Age of Evolution: A New Theory of Natural Kinds, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Essence in the Age of Evolution

A New Theory of Natural Kinds, 1st Edition

By Christopher J. Austin


144 pages

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Hardback: 9780815375067
pub: 2018-09-20
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351240857
pub: 2018-10-10
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This book offers a novel defence of a highly contested philosophical position: biological natural kind essentialism. This theory is routinely and explicitly rejected for its purported inability to be explicated in the context of contemporary biological science, and its supposed incompatibility with the process and progress of evolution by natural selection. Christopher J. Austin challenges these objections, and in conjunction with contemporary scientific advancements within the field of evolutionary-developmental biology, the book utilises a contemporary neo-Aristotelian metaphysics of "dispositional properties", or causal powers, to provide a theory of essentialism centred on the developmental architecture of organisms and its role in the evolutionary process. By defending a novel theory of Aristotelian biological natural kind essentialism, Essence in the Age of Evolution represents the fresh and exciting union of cutting-edge philosophical insight and scientific knowledge.


"This exciting book defends a controversial position: biological natural kind essentialism with a neo-Aristotelian twist. It makes an interesting, novel contribution to the metaphysics of natural kinds and is a great example of what work in scientifically-informed metaphysics, or the metaphysics of science, should look like."Tuomas E. Tahko, University of Helsinki

Table of Contents


1. Biological Natural Kind Essentialism: Definitions & Desiderata

2. Essence and Explanation: Natural Kinds in the Taxonomic Tree

3. Powerfully Directed Development: A Dispositional Analysis of Ontogenesis

4. Ontogenetic Causal Primacy: The Fount and Flow of Information

5. The Essence of Natural Kinds: Unity in Diversity

6. An Evolutionary Ontology: Priority, Modality, and The Natural State


About the Author

Christopher J. Austin is Head of Philosophy at Sutton Grammar School, London, and specialises in the metaphysics of science, with a particular focus on biology. Recent publications include ‘Dispositions in Evolutionary Developmental Biology’ in Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide, and ‘A Biologically Informed Hylomorphism’ in Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Metaphysics
SCIENCE / Philosophy & Social Aspects