, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 633-641
Date: 11 Oct 2007

The importance of homology for biology and philosophy

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Introduction to the special issue

Homology is one of the most important concepts in biology (de Beer 1971; Donoghue 1992). Having been introduced in pre-Darwinian comparative biology, it continues to be fundamental to taxonomy, phylogeny, and evolutionary biology. In recent times it has come to play an important role in molecular and developmental biology. In addition to figuring prominently in biological practice, the notion of homology is the subject of extensive theoretical reflection among biologists (Bock and Cardew 1999; Hall 1994; Wagner 2001b). Curiously though, homology has been discussed only sparsely by philosophers.

These discussions include Amundson (2005), Amundson and Lauder (1994), Brandon (1999), Brigandt (2002, 2003), Griffiths (1994, 1996, 2006), Matthen (1998, 2000), and Sober (1988).

The contributions to this special issue attempt to highlight the importance of homology for philosophy as well as biology. Homology is germane to such philosophical issues as the individ ...