Christopher  Austin Author of Evaluating Organization Development
FEATURED AUTHOR

Christopher Austin


Christopher J. Austin is a Research Fellow in Metaphysics at Durham University and specialises in the metaphysics of science, with a particular focus on biology. Recent publications include Essence in the Age of Evolution: A New Theory of Natural Kinds (Routledge), 'Dispositions in Evolutionary Developmental Biology’ in Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide (Springer), and ‘A Biologically Informed Hylomorphism’ in Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science (Routl

Subjects: Philosophy

Biography

My philosophical interests are centered around issues at the intersection of modal metaphysics and the philosophy of science - especially theories of causation, the viability of the project of ontological reductionism, the ground of ​de re ​modality, and perhaps most of all, the nature and explanatory utility of dispositional properties in the sciences, especially in the field of evolutionary developmental biology.

I hail from Indiana, a mid-Western state in the United States of America, and have lived in England for the last 9 years during both my Master's studies (at Oriel College, Oxford), my Doctoral Studies (at the University of Nottingham), and my post-doctoral position as Research Fellow in Metaphysics at Oxford.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Philosophy: Metaphysics; Philosophy of Biology; Ancient Philosophy - especially Aristotle

Personal Interests

    Aside from my academic interests, I'm a chess enthusiast, a techno-geek, and a coffee fanatic. I also am a avid horticulturist with a special interest in cacti, succulents, and fungi.

Websites

Books

Featured Title
 Featured Title - Essence in the Age of Evolution: Austin - 1st Edition book cover

Articles

Biology and Philosophy

The Ontology of Organisms: Mechanistic Modules or Patterned Processes?


Published: Jan 13, 2019 by Biology and Philosophy
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

Though the realm of biology has long been under the philosophical rule of the mechanistic magisterium, recent years have seen a surprisingly steady rise in the usurping prowess of process ontology. In this paper I argue that the biological realm remains one best understood as under the governance of mechanistic principles.

Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide

Dispositions in Evolutionary Developmental Biology


Published: Oct 20, 2018 by Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide
Authors: Christopher J. Austin and Laura Nuno de la Rosa
Subjects: Philosophy

This chapter discusses the recent philosophical literature on dispositional properties in evo-devo, exploring debates about both the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of the central dispositional concepts utilised in contemporary evo-devo (e.g., variability, modularity, robustness, plasticity, and evolvability) and addressing the epistemological question of how dispositional properties challenge existing explanatory models in evolutionary biology

Analysis

Recent Work in the Philosophy of Biology


Published: Sep 13, 2017 by Analysis
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

This review will briefly introduce some recent significant topics of debate within the philosophy of biology, focusing on those whose metaphysical themes (in everything from composition to causation) are likely to be of wide-reaching, cross-disciplinary interest.

Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science

Structural Powers and the Homeodynamic Unity of Organisms


Published: Mar 13, 2017 by Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science
Authors: Christopher J. Austin and Anna Marmodoro
Subjects: Philosophy

Although they are continually compositionally reconstituted and reconfigured, organisms nonetheless persist as ontologically unified beings over time – but in virtue of what? In introducing a novel type of causal power – a „structural power‟ – we claim that it is the persistence of their dynamic potential to produce a specified series of structurally adaptive morphologies which grounds organisms‟ privileged status as metaphysically “one over many” over time.

Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science

A Biologically Informed Hylomorphism


Published: Mar 11, 2017 by Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

Utilising recent advances in developmental biology, I argue that the hylomorphic framework is an empirically adequate and conceptually rich explanatory schema with which to model the nature of organisms.

European Journal for Philosophy of Science

Evo-Devo: A Science of Dispositions


Published: Jan 22, 2017 by European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

Given the empirical successes of the evo-devo framework, a timely and important task for the philosophy of biology is to critically discern the ontological commitments of that framework and assess whether and to what extent our current metaphysical models are able to accommodate them. I argue that one particular model is a natural fit: an ontology of dispositional properties coherently and adequately captures the role that the fundamental elements of evo-devo play within that framework

Synthese

Aristotelian Essentialism: Essence in the Age of Evolution


Published: Mar 20, 2016 by Synthese
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

The advent of contemporary evolutionary theory ushered in the eventual decline of the theory of Aristotelian Essentialism (Æ)—for it is widely assumed that essence does not, and cannot have any proper place in the age of evolution. This paper argues that this assumption is a mistake: if Æ can be suitably evolved, it need not face extinction.

Ratio

Is Dispositional Causation Just Mutual Manifestation?


Published: Aug 03, 2015 by Ratio
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

The theory of mutual manifestations attempts to do so by locating the complexity and context sensitivity within the nature of dispositions themselves. This paper argues that the reconceptualization that the theory entails comes at too high a price, and is an unnecessary step in the wrong direction: these two central aspects concerning the metaphysics of causation can and should be accounted for in a dispositional account of causation without it.

Biology and Philosophy

The Dipositional Genome: Primus Inter Pares


Published: Jul 13, 2015 by Biology and Philosophy
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

This paper argues that, if the genome is conceptualised as realising dispositional properties that are “directed toward” phenotypic traits, the parity of ‘causal roles’ between genetic and extra-genetic factors is no longer apparent, and further, that the causal primacy of the genome is both plausible and defensible.

Ratio

The Truthmaking Argument Against Dispositionalism


Published: Jan 13, 2015 by Ratio
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

This paper examines a recent argument against dispositionalism that purports to show that the intrinsicality of that relation cannot be maintained, due to the ceteris paribus nature of the counterfactuals that dispositions make‐true. When two prominent responses are examined, both are found wanting: at best, they require unjustified special pleading, and at worst, they amount to little more than ad hoc conceptual trickery

Percipi

The Relation of Compresence in the Bundle Theory


Published: Jul 13, 2008 by Percipi
Authors: Christopher J. Austin
Subjects: Philosophy

There are many things that the bundle theory of objects is thought to accomplish—an explication of the more exact “composition” or make-up of existent substances, the truth-making scheme for propositions and perhaps even an ontological foundation for property theory.This paper argues that no version of the bundle theory so far advanced is able to successfully answer certain objections and that therefore either the theory must be conceptually expanded and revised or rejected.