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PHI 125 — Philosophy of Biology: Exploring the Intersection of Science and Society

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 2—Jun 4
Time: 6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 4
Units: 2
Tuition: $550
Instructor(s): Stephen Friesen
Limit: 40
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Apr 2—Jun 4
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 4
2 Units
Stephen Friesen
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Aristotle provided the first philosophical reflections on biology. Centuries later, discussions about the nature of life and the implications of evolutionary theory gained momentum with Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin. Yet the philosophy of biology didn't emerge as a distinct field until the 20th century, with philosophers seeking to examine the practices, theories, and concepts of biology to better understand it as a scientific discipline. This introductory course traces both the origins and modern development of the philosophy of biology and provides a foundational understanding of how philosophical inquiry enhances critical thinking about the concepts, ethical implications, and societal relevance of biological theories and practices.

The course begins by looking at the nature of life itself, and how it might be explained. It moves on to apply a critical lens, both philosophical and historical, to commonly cited interpretations of biology, starting with the perspectives of Thomas Malthus and Charles Darwin and continuing with the more recent work of David Hull and Richard Lewontin. The course concludes by exploring recent questions and concepts in evolutionary theory and ecology, including the evolving realm of process philosophy, a philosophical perspective that emphasizes the dynamic and relational nature of reality, rather than conceiving of the world as composed of static and isolated entities.

Adjunct Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of San Francisco; Lecturer in Geography, Environment and Planning Department, Sonoma State

Stephen Friesen teaches philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics at the University of San Francisco. He also teaches environmental history and environmental literature at Sonoma State. He creates learning content that crosses boundaries. Friesen received a PhD from Indiana University Bloomington.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Peter Godfrey-Smith, Metazoa: Animal Minds and the Birth of Consciousness (ISBN 978-0008321239 )