, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 153-159
Date: 12 Feb 2013

Philosophy and the microbe: a balancing act

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The cover of Biology and Philosophy features a trilobite, a fruit fly and an orchid; in other words, two animals and a plant. Until fairly recently, much of the content of the journal reflected this cover. As deep and interesting—in fact, as field-defining—as the many papers in Biology and Philosophy have been since the journal’s inception, they were predominantly about the biology of animals with the occasional plant thrown in for good measure. Other journals that published philosophy of biology stayed within those same organismal boundaries, as did books that were about the field as a whole. Eukaryotes other than plants and animals, such as fungi and protists, did occasionally gain a mention (e.g., David Hull discussed slime moulds in his classic 1976 paper on species as individuals), as did prokaryotes (e.g., Sterelny and Griffiths mentioned Bacteria and Archaea several times in 1999). But overall, these examples can be noted primarily for being exceptions and for the remarkably res ...