Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 391–403 | Cite as

Philosophical foundations for the hierarchy of life

  • Deborah E. SheltonEmail author
  • Richard E. Michod


We review Evolution and the Levels of Selection by Samir Okasha. This important book provides a cohesive philosophical framework for understanding levels-of-selections problems in biology. Concerning evolutionary transitions, Okasha proposes that three stages characterize the shift from a lower level of selection to a higher one. We discuss the application of Okasha’s three-stage concept to the evolutionary transition from unicellularity to multicellularity in the volvocine green algae. Okasha’s concepts are a provocative step towards a more general understanding of the major evolutionary transitions; however, the application of certain ideas to the volvocine model system is not straightforward.


Chlamydomonas Eudorina Evolutionary transitions Gonium Individuality Multicellularity Multilevel selection Pleodorina Volvocaceae Volvox 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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