Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 129, Issue 2–3, pp 167–182

Evolutionary epistemology as a scientific method: a new look upon the units and levels of evolution debate

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12064-010-0085-9

Cite this article as:
Gontier, N. Theory Biosci. (2010) 129: 167. doi:10.1007/s12064-010-0085-9


Evolutionary epistemology can provide a unified scientific methodology that enables scholars to study the evolution of life as well as the evolution of cognition, science, culture and any other phenomenon displayed by living organisms. In this article, three heuristics are provided that allow for a thorough search for the units, levels and mechanisms of evolution. Contrary to previous approaches, units, levels and mechanisms are not identified by pointing out essential features, but rather ostensive definitions are preferred. That is, units are considered as such if a level of evolution and a mechanism of evolution is identifiable. Levels are levels if one can point out units that evolve at that level according to evolutionary mechanisms, and mechanisms are considered as such if one can point out units and levels where the mechanism is active.


Evolutionary epistemology Units Levels Evolutionary mechanisms 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fund for Science and Technology, Portugal (FCT), Centre for Philosophy of ScienceUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Marie Curie Outgoing Research Fellow, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of ScienceVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Division of PalaeontologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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