Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 893–911

A levels-of-selection approach to evolutionary individuality


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-016-9540-4

Cite this article as:
Clarke, E. Biol Philos (2016) 31: 893. doi:10.1007/s10539-016-9540-4


What changes when an evolutionary transition in individuality takes place? Many different answers have been given, in respect of different cases of actual transition, but some have suggested a general answer: that a major transition is a change in the extent to which selection acts at one hierarchical level rather than another. The current paper evaluates some different ways to develop this general answer as a way to characterise the property ‘evolutionary individuality’; and offers a justification of the option taken in Clarke (J Philos 110(8):413–435, 2013)—to define evolutionary individuality in terms of an object’s capacity to undergo selection at its own level. In addition, I suggest a method by which the property can be measured and argue that a problem which is often considered to be fatal to that method—the problem of ‘cross-level by-products’—can be avoided.


Levels of selection Evolutionary individuality Major transitions 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.All Souls CollegeOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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