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A framework for philosophical biology

Ehsani, S; (2020) A framework for philosophical biology. In: Glauner, P and Plugmann, P, (eds.) Innovative Technologies for Market Leadership. (pp. 167-200). Springer: Cham, Switzerland. Green open access

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Abstract

Advances in biology have mostly relied on theories that were subsequently revised, expanded or eventually refuted using experimental and other means. Theoretical biology used to primarily provide a basis to rationally examine the frameworks within which biological experiments were carried out and to shed light on overlooked gaps in understanding. Today, however, theoretical biology has generally become synonymous with computational and mathematical biology. This could in part be explained by a relatively recent tendency in which a "data first", rather than a "theory first", approach is preferred. Moreover, generating hypotheses has at times become procedural rather than theoretical. This situation leaves our understanding enmeshed in data, which should be disentangled from much noise. Given the many unresolved questions in biology and medicine, it seems apt to revive the role of pure theory in the biological sciences. This paper makes the case for a "philosophical biology" (philbiology), distinct from but quite complementary to philosophy of biology (philobiology), which would entail biological investigation through philosophical approaches. Philbiology would thus be a reincarnation of theoretical biology, adopting the true sense of the word "theory" and making use of a rich tradition of serious philosophical approaches in the natural sciences. A philbiological investigation, after clearly defining a given biological problem, would aim to propose a set of empirical questions, along with a class of possible solutions, about that problem. Importantly, whether or not the questions can be tested using current experimental paradigms would be secondary to whether the questions are inherently empirical or not. The final goal of a philbiological investigation would be to develop a theoretical framework that can lead observational and/or interventional experimental studies of the defined problem.

Type: Book chapter
Title: A framework for philosophical biology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-41309-5_13
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-41309-5_13
Language: English
Additional information: Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105944
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