Reply to Dennett, Gardner and Rubin
I am grateful to Daniel Dennett, Andy Gardner and Hannah Rubin for their careful reading of Agents and Goals in Evolution and welcome the opportunity to respond to their critiques. I will begin by briefly rehearsing some of the main themes in my book, focusing on points with which one or more of my interlocutors disagree.
Some core themes from Agents and Goals in Evolution
The main concern of my book is to analyse a mode of thinking in evolutionary biology that is quite common, and philosophically interesting. I call it “agential thinking,” a term due to Peter Godfrey-Smith. It is a way of doing evolutionary analysis that invokes the notion of agency, and kindred notions such as interests, goals and strategies.Agential thinking assumes a variety of forms, but in its paradigm case it involves treating an evolved organism as if it were a rational agent pursuing a goal, such as survival and reproduction, and treating its phenotypic traits, including its behaviour, as strategies for...