What was historical about natural history? Contingency and explanation in the science of living things

Harrison, Peter (2016) What was historical about natural history? Contingency and explanation in the science of living things. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 58 8-16. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.12.012


Author Harrison, Peter
Title What was historical about natural history? Contingency and explanation in the science of living things
Journal name Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1369-8486
1879-2499
Publication date 2016-01-19
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.12.012
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 58
Start page 8
End page 16
Total pages 9
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Language eng
Abstract There is a long-standing distinction in Western thought between scientific and historical modes of explanation. According to Aristotle's influential account of scientific knowledge there cannot be an explanatory science of what is contingent and accidental, such things being the purview of a descriptive history. This distinction between scientia and historia continued to inform assumptions about scientific explanation into the nineteenth century and is particularly significant when considering the emergence of biology and its displacement of the more traditional discipline of natural history. One of the consequences of this nineteenth-century transition was that while modern evolutionary theory retained significant, if often implicit, historical components, these were often overlooked as evolutionary biology sought to accommodate itself to a model of scientific explanation that involved appeals to laws of nature. These scientific aspirations of evolutionary biology sometimes sit uncomfortably with its historical dimension. This tension lies beneath recent philosophical critiques of evolutionary theory and its modes of explanation. Such critiques, however, overlook the fact that there are legitimate modes of historical explanation that do not require recourse to laws of nature. But responding to these criticisms calls for a more explicit recognition of the affinities between evolutionary biology and history.
Keyword Contingency
Design
Evolution
Historical explanation
Laws of nature
Natural history
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article in Press. Corrected Proof

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
 
Versions
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 0 times in Scopus Article
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 02 Feb 2016, 10:51:24 EST by System User on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)