Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 989–1010

Maynard Smith on the levels of selection question


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-005-9019-1

Cite this article as:
Okasha, S. Biol Philos (2005) 20: 989. doi:10.1007/s10539-005-9019-1


The levels of selection problem was central to Maynard Smith’s work throughout his career. This paper traces Maynard Smith’s views on the levels of selection, from his objections to group selection in the 1960s to his concern with the major evolutionary transitions in the 1990s. The relations between Maynard Smith’s position and those of Hamilton and G.C. Williams are explored, as is Maynard Smith’s dislike of the Price equation approach to multi-level selection. Maynard Smith’s account of the ‘core Darwinian principles’ is discussed, as is his debate with Sober and Wilson (1998) over the status of trait-group models, and his attitude to the currently fashionable concept of pluralism about the levels of selection.


AltruismEvolutionary transitionsGroup selectionIndividualityKin selectionLevels of selectionPluralismPrice’s equation

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BristolBristolUK