Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 401–459

Assessing evolutionary epistemology

  • Michael Bradie

DOI: 10.1007/BF00140962

Cite this article as:
Bradie, M. Biol Philos (1986) 1: 401. doi:10.1007/BF00140962


There are two interrelated but distinct programs which go by the name “evolutionary epistemology.” One attempts to account for the characteristics of cognitive mechanisms in animals and humans by a straightforward extension of the biological theory of evolution to those aspects or traits of animals which are the biological substrates of cognitive activity, e.g., their brains, sensory systems, motor systems, etc. (EEM program). The other program attempts to account for the evaluation of ideas, scientific theories and culture in general by using models and metaphors drawn from evolutionary biology (EET program). The paper begins by distinguishing the two programs and discussing the relationship between them. The next section addresses the metaphorical and analogical relationship between evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary biology. Section IV treats the question of the locus of the epistemological problem in the light of an evolutionary analysis. The key questions here involve the relationship between evolutionary epistemology and traditional epistemology and the legitimacy of evolutionary epistemology as epistemology. Section V examines the underlying ontological presuppositions and implications of evolutionary epistemology. Finally, section VI, which is merely the sketch of a problem, addresses the parallel between evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary ethics.

Key words

Evolution epistemology selection analogy metaphor norms 

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Bradie
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenU.S.A.