History & Philosophy of Biology

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) is recognized as a world leader in general history and philosophy of science. The department also has excellent resources for graduate study in the philosophy and history of biology and medicine. 

The department is able to offer a generous package of financial support to most successful applicants for admission and has an excellent record of placing its PhD graduates in academic positions.

Participating Faculty

Colin Allen (HPS) Evolutionary accounts of behavior and cognition, concepts of function in biology, applications of A.I. in medicine. Co-author of Species of Mind: The philosophy and biology of cognitive ethology (MIT Press 1997) and of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry (updated 2019) on “Teleological Notions in Biology” co-authored with Jacob Neal (HPS).  

Michael R. Dietrich (HPS) History of genetics, developmental biology, and evolutionary biology.  Philosophical issues surrounding scientific controversy. Co-editor of Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2018).   

Jonathan Fuller (HPS) History and philosophy of medicine, philosophy of epidemiology, clinical reasoning.

Sandra D. Mitchell (HPS) Epistemological and metaphysical issues in biological science. Author of Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism (Cambridge, 2003) and Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity, and Policy (Chicago, 2009).

Carla Nappi (History) Early modern histories of science and health, and of translation, working primarily (but not exclusively) with Manchu- and Chinese-language documents. Author of The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and Its Transformations in Early Modern China (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Mari Webel (History) History of Medicine and Public Health, History of Africa. Author of The Politics of Disease Control: Sleeping Sickness in Eastern Africa, 1890–1920, a history of African politics and colonial public health, focusing on sleeping sickness at Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika.  

Emeritus Faculty

James G. Lennox (HPS emeritus) Ancient Greek philosophy, science, medicine, and Charles Darwin and Darwinism. Author of Aristotle's Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origin of Life Science (Cambridge, 2000) and translator of Aristotle's On the Parts of Animals I-IV (Oxford 2002). 

Kenneth F. Schaffner (HPS emeritus) Philosophy and history of biology and medicine, including psychiatry. Author of Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine (Chicago, 1993) and Behaving: What’s Genetic and What’s Not? (Oxford, 2016). 

Recent Dissertation Projects:

Aaron Novick, “The Prodigal Genetics Returns: Integrating Gene Regulatory Network Theory Into Evolutionary Theory.”

Aleta Quinn, "Biological Systematics and Evolutionary Theory".

Peter Gildenhuys, “A Causal Interpretation of Selection Theory”.

Jim Tabery, “Causation in the Nature-Nurture Debate: The Case of Genotype-Environment Interaction”.

Ingo Brigandt, “A Theory of Conceptual Advance: Explaining Conceptual Change in Evolutionary, Molecular, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology”.

Megan Delehanty, “Empiricism and the Epistemic Status of Imaging Technologies”.

Alan Love, “Explaining Evolutionary Innovation and Novelty: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Biological Concepts”.