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The Economy of Nature: The Structure of Evolution in Linnaeus, Darwin, and Toward the Extended Synthesis

Pence, Charles H. and Swaim, Daniel G. (2017) The Economy of Nature: The Structure of Evolution in Linnaeus, Darwin, and Toward the Extended Synthesis. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 8. pp. 435-454. ISSN 1879-4912

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Abstract

We argue that the economy of nature constitutes an invocation of structure in the biological sciences, one largely missed by philosophers of biology despite the turn in recent years toward structural explanations throughout the philosophy of science. We trace a portion of the history of this concept, beginning with the theologically and economically grounded work of Linnaeus, moving through Darwin’s adaptation of the economy of nature and its reconstitution in genetic terms during the first decades of the Modern Synthesis. What this historical case study reveals, we argue, is a window into the shifting landscape of the explanatory and ontic uses of structural concepts. In Linnaeus, the economy of nature has both ontic and explanatory import; in Darwin the ontic and explanatory aspects start to come apart (with the explanatory aspect being foregrounded); and finally, in the Modern Synthesis, the economy of nature is replaced by the conceptual toolkit of population genetics, the structural elements of which are nearly entirely explanatory. Having traced a historical trajectory of structural concepts that moves from an ontic formulation to an increasingly explanatory one, we conclude by outlining some insights for structural realism.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Pence, Charles H.charles@charlespence.net0000-0002-6836-6047
Swaim, Daniel G.dswaim@sas.upenn.edu
Keywords: economy of nature; Carl Linnaeus; Charles Darwin; Sewall Wright; Ernst Mayr; extended synthesis; ecology; eco-evo-devo
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Charles H. Pence
Date Deposited: 28 May 2021 01:43
Last Modified: 28 May 2021 01:43
Item ID: 19103
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13194...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-017-0194-0
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: 6 December 2017
Page Range: pp. 435-454
Volume: 8
ISSN: 1879-4912
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19103

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