Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 193–214 | Cite as

Explanatory pluralism in evolutionary biology

  • Kim Sterelny


The ontological dependence of one domain on another is compatible with the explanatory autonomy of the less basic domain. That autonomy results from the fact that the relationship between two domains can be very complex. In this paper I distinguish two different types of complexity, two ways the relationship between domains can fail to be transparent, both of which are relevant to evolutionary biology. Sometimes high level explanations preserve a certain type of causal or counterfactual information which would be lost at the lower level; I argue that this is central to the proper understanding of the adaptationist program. Sometimes high level kinds are multiply realised by lower level kinds: I argue that this is central to the understanding of macroevolution.

Key words

Adaptationism avatars competition explanation evolution macroevolution optimality reductionism species selection species sorting 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Sterelny
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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