Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 5–36 | Cite as

Causal Regularities in the Biological World of Contingent Distributions

  • C. Kenneth Waters


Former discussions of biological generalizations have focused on the question of whether there are universal laws’ of biology. These discussions typically analyzed generalizations out of their investigative and explanatory contexts and concluded that whatever biological generalizations are, they are not universal laws. The aim of this paper is to explain what biological generalizations are by shifting attention towards the contexts in which they are drawn. I argue that within the context of any particular biological explanation or investigation, biologists employ two types of generations. One type identifies causal regularities exhibited by particular kinds of biological entities. The other type identifies how these entities are distributed in the biological world.

causal contingent distribution essentialism explanation generalization kind law regularity ultimate and proximate explanation universal 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Kenneth Waters
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, 309 Ford HallUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisU.S.A

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