Review Essay

Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 449-457

First online:

Epistemology, necessity, and evolution: a critical review of Michael Ruse’s Philosophy After Darwin

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Michael Ruse’s new anthology Philosophy After Darwin provides great history and background in the major impacts Darwinism has had on philosophy, especially in ethics and epistemology. This review focuses on epistemology understood through the lens of evolution by natural selection. I focus on one of Ruse’s own articles in the collection, which responds to two classic articles by Konrad Lorenz and David Hull on the two major forms of evolutionary epistemology. I side with Ruse against Lorenz’s account of the necessity we think our principles of reasoning have, though I disagree with Ruse’s particular example. I also argue that Ruse’s alternative explanation is lacking. Against Hull, I side with Ruse in his doubts that a sociobiological approach to science will prove fruitful, though I point out that it has certain advantages other approaches do not have. Although I side with Ruse on the issue, I conclude that the two views do not really come into direct conflict and so one needs not reject either. Finally, I discuss Ruse’s positive view and raise questions for his conception of evolutionary epistemology. I conclude that his arguments are insufficient to overcome opposing views and his view has at least as many unintuitive conclusions as the alternatives.


Evolutionary epistemology Darwinism Epistemology Sociobiology of science