Philosophy of Biology Before Biology  book cover
1st Edition

Philosophy of Biology Before Biology

ISBN 9780367661625
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

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

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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.