Course syllabus

Welcome to PHIL263/363: Philosophy of Biology.

Meeting times:
Lectures (263 + 363): TBA
263 Tutorials: TBA
363 Tutorials: TBA

Course Coordinator and Lecturer: Dr Emily Parke
Office hours: TBA
Office: Room 427, Building 206 (Humanities)

Tutor: TBA

Class Rep: TBA

Tuākana Mentor: Nathan Rew ( Nate's cohort includes all Māori and Pacific students enrolled in Philosophy courses in stage 1 through to 3. 

Well-being always comes first

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.


Course Description:

You are probably already familiar with some philosophical issues involving biology, as they’re portrayed in the media: For example, the evolution/creationism debate, or the effects of new genetic research on our understanding of humans (the human mind, human sexuality, or human nature). Philosophers of biology engage with these sorts of issues and many others, including: What exactly is natural selection, and does it act on individual organisms, genes, or groups of organisms? Does natural selection explain everything about the amazing diversity and complexity we see in the living world? If all individual organisms are fundamentally self-interested, how on earth do self-sacrificing behaviours, like sharing food, evolve? What is life, anyway, and where did it come from? 

We will address these and a range of other questions about the conceptual and philosophical foundations of the life sciences. We will read and discuss literature by both philosophers of biology and biologists. Many of these issues are contentious—people have argued about them for decades or centuries, and are still arguing—so we will not just be learning what others have said, but engaging with ongoing debates.

Course Objectives:

In this course you will:

  • Engage with classic and contemporary debates in philosophy of biology
  • Apply philosophical reasoning to conceptual debates in biology
  • Draw on insights from the biological sciences to think about questions in philosophy 
  • Hone your critical thinking, reasoning, and writing skills, with a particular focus on writing concisely about complex, interdisciplinary topics

Schedule of Weekly Topics:

  • Coming in 2019...

Course Details, Policies, and Expectations:

  • We will meet weekly for two-hour lectures and one-hour tutorials
  • You are expected to do the assigned readings each week before lecture. There is no textbook; all assigned readings will be available electronically through Canvas > Reading Lists. 
  • There is no exam. Your grade will be based on a mix of short essays, in-class assignments and a final essay. Further details will be posted here in 2019.
  • Further details TBA...

Course summary:

Date Details