Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 229–242 | Cite as

Sophisticated selectionism as a general theory of knowledge



Human knowledge is a phenomenon whose roots extend from the cultural, through the neural and the biological and finally all the way down into the Precambrian “primordial soup.” The present paper reports an attempt at understanding this Greater System of Knowledge (GSK) as a hierarchical nested set of selection processes acting concurrently on several different scales of time and space. To this end, a general selection theory extending mainly from the work of Hull and Campbell is introduced. The perhaps most drastic change from previous similar theories is that replication is revealed as a composite function consisting of what is referred to as memory and synthesis. This move is argued to drastically improve the fit between theory and human-related knowledge systems. The introduced theory is then used to interpret the subsystems of the GSK and their interrelations. This is done to the end of demonstrating some of the new perspectives offered by this view.


Selection Universal selection Evolutionary epistemology Knowledge Hierarchies Innovation 



I wish to thank in particular David Lane, Camille Roth and other researchers and students at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, for enlightening discussions on these topics. I also want to thank Martin Nilsson Jacobi, Kristian Lindgren and several others in the center for complex system at Chalmers, Göteborg, Sweden. Peter Nylén has also provided his valuable insights and given me the opportunity to discuss these question in depth. Finally, I wish to thank Kim Sterelny and a number of anonymous referees for their efforts with this manuscript. The work was funded in part by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and in part by Chalmers. Also, the European Center for Living Technology, University of Venice Ca’Foscari, Italy, has kindly provided space and other resources.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Complex Systems Group, Division for Physical Resource TheoryGoteborgSweden

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