Philosophy of Biology Before Biology: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Philosophy of Biology Before Biology

1st Edition

Edited by Cécilia Bognon-Küss, Charles T. Wolfe


220 pages

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pub: 2019-02-19
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The use of the term "biology" to refer to a unified science of life emerged around 1800 (most prominently by scientists such as Lamarck and Treviranus, although scholarship has indicated its usage at least 30-40 years earlier). The interplay between philosophy and natural science has also accompanied the constitution of biology as a science.

Philosophy of Biology Before Biology examines biological and protobiological writings from the mid-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century (from Buffon to Cuvier; Kant to Oken; and Kielmeyer) with two major sets of questions in mind:

  1. What were the distinctive conceptual features of the move toward biology as a science?
  2. What were the relations and differences between the "philosophical" focus on the nature of living entities, and the "scientific" focus?

This insightful volume produces a fresh but also systematic perspective both on the history of biology as a science and on the early versions of, in the 1960s in a post-positivist context, the philosophy of biology. It will appeal to students and researchers interested in fields such as history of science, philosophy of science and biology.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors



  1. Cécilia Bognon-Küss & Charles T. Wolfe. The idea of "philosophy of biology before biology": a methodological provocation

  3. Stéphane Schmitt. Buffon’s theories of generation and the changing dialectics of molds and molecules
  4. Phillip Sloan. Metaphysics and "Vital" Materialism: The Gabrielle Du Châtelet Circle and French Vitalism
  5. John Zammito. The Philosophical Reception of C. F. Wolff’s Epigenesis in Germany, 1770-1790: Herder, Tetens and Kant

  7. François Duchesneau. Senebier and the Advent of General Physiology
  8. Tobias Cheung. Organization and Process. Living Systems Between Inner and Outer Worlds: Cuvier, Hufeland, Cabanis.
  9. Part III. SYSTEMS

  10. Georg Toepfer. Philosophy of Ecology Long Before Ecology: Kant’s Idea of an Organized System of Organized Beings
  11. Ina Goy. "All is leaf". Goethe's plant philosophy and poetry
  12. Snait Gissis. 'Biologie': Lamarck's endeavor of a science of living entities


  1. Lynn Nyhart. A Historical Proposal Around Prepositions
  2. Philippe Huneman. Philosophy after Philosophy of Biology before Biology

Cécilia Bognon-Küss and Charles T. Wolfe. Conclusion

About the Editors

Cécilia Bognon-Küss is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Paris 7 ('Who am I?' Labex).

Charles T. Wolfe is a researcher in the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium.

About the Series

History and Philosophy of Biology

This series explores significant developments in the life sciences from historical and philosophical perspectives. Historical episodes include Aristotelian biology, Greek and Islamic biology and medicine, Renaissance biology, natural history, Darwinian evolution, Nineteenth-century physiology and cell theory, Twentieth-century genetics, ecology, and systematics, and the biological theories and practices of non-Western perspectives. Philosophical topics include individuality, reductionism and holism, fitness, levels of selection, mechanism and teleology, and the nature-nurture debates, as well as explanation, confirmation, inference, experiment, scientific practice, and models and theories vis-à-vis the biological sciences.

Authors are also invited to inquire into the "and" of this series. How has, does, and will the history of biology impact philosophical understandings of life? How can philosophy help us analyze the historical contingency of, and structural constraints on, scientific knowledge about biological processes and systems? In probing the interweaving of history and philosophy of biology, scholarly investigation could usefully turn to values, power, and potential future uses and abuses of biological knowledge.

The scientific scope of the series includes evolutionary theory, environmental sciences, genomics, molecular biology, systems biology, biotechnology, biomedicine, race and ethnicity, and sex and gender. These areas of the biological sciences are not silos, and tracking their impact on other sciences such as psychology, economics, and sociology, and the behavioral and human sciences more generally, is also within the purview of this series.

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and Visiting Scholar of Philosophy at Stanford University (2015-2016). He works in the philosophy of science and philosophy of biology and has strong interests in metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy, in addition to cartography and GIS, cosmology and particle physics, psychological and cognitive science, and science in general. Recent publications include "The Structure of Scientific Theories," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and "Race and Biology," The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. His book with University of Chicago Press, When Maps Become the World, is forthcoming.

[email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General