Duke University’s Philosophy Department via the Center is the home to a vibrant group of philosophers of biology.

Robert Brandon

Robert N. Brandon (Ph.D. 1979, Harvard) joined the Duke Faculty in fall of 1979. He holds a joint appointment in Philosophy and Zoology. He has published articles in Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Biology and Philosophy, PSA 1980 and PSA 1982, some of which have subsequently been anthologized. He has co-edited (with Richard Burian) Genes, Organisms, Populations: Controversies over the Units of Selection (Bradford Books, MIT Press, 1984), and his book, Adaptation and Environment was published by Princeton University Press in 1990. His most recent book Concepts and Methods in Evolutionary Biology (Cambridge) was published in 1996. During the spring of 1984 he had a visiting appointment at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh. His major areas of interest are philosophy of science (especially philosophy of biology) and logic.

Frederik Nijhout

Frederik Nijhout (Ph.D. 1974, Harvard) is professor at Duke’s Biology Department. He is broadly interested in the developmental physiology of insects. He has two main lines of research ongoing in his laboratory.The first of these deals with the manner in which the insect developmental hormones, ecdysone and juvenile hormone, act to control alternate developmental pathways within a single individual. His studies and those of his students have dealt with the control of sequential polymorphism in metamorphosis, of alternate polymorphism in caste determination of social insects, and with the control of growth and development of imaginal disks.The second line of research deals with the development and evolution of color patterns in Lepidoptera. Ongoing research attempts to elucidate how intercellular signals commit different cells on the wing to synthesize different pigments. Other studies deal with theoretical modeling of pattern formation, the quantitative genetics, phylogeny, and evolution of color patterns. See his lab’s website for more details.

Daniel W. McShea

Dan McShea (Ph.D. 1990, Chicago) is professor at Duke’s Biology Department. He is interested in large-scale evolutionary trends, that is, trends that include a number of higher taxa and span a large portion of the history of life. Features that have been said to show such trends include complexity, size, fitness, and others. In his research he has been developing operational measures of these features, devising methods for testing empirically whether trends have occurred, and studying the causes and correlates of trends. His major work so far has been on trends in complexity. He is also interested in: 1. The relationships among the various evolutionary forces acting on animal form — functional, formal, and phylogenetic. 2. Theoretical aspects of animal psychology. 3. The philosophy of biology. See his lab’s website for more details.

Alex Rosenberg

Alex Rosenberg (Ph.D. 1971, John Hopkins University) joined the Duke faculty in 2000. Previously he was professor of philosophy at Syracuse University, Univers ity of California, Riverside and Director of the Honors Program at the University of Georgia. He has been a visiting professor and fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Minnesota, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Oxford University. He has held fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. In 1993 Rosenberg received the Lakatos Award in the philosophy of science. He is the author of Microeconomic Laws: A Philosophical Analysis, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976, Sociobiology and the Preemption of Social Science, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980, Basil Blackwell, 1981, Hume and the Problem of Causation, Oxford University Press, 1981 (with T.L. Beauchamp), The Structure of Biological Science, Cambridge University Press, 1985, Philosophy of Social Science, Clarendon Press, Oxford and Westview Press, 1988, Second Edition, Revised, Enlarged, 1995, Economics: Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns?, University of Chicago Press, 1992, Instrumental Biology or the Disunity of Science, University of Chicago Press, 1994, Darwinism in Philosophy, Social Science and Policy, Cambridge University Press, 2000, Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Approach, Routledge, 2000, and approximately 150 papers in the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of cognitive, behavioral and social science (especially economics), and causation. See his website for more information.

Tyler Curtain

Tyler Curtain (Ph.D. 1999, Johns Hopkins University) is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he teaches theory and philosophy of language. Tyler is member faculty in  the Expressive Communication and the Origins of Language Research Group (ECOM) in the Department of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill.  He was most recently Triangle Scholar at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Durham, NC. His research interests include philosophy of biology, evolutionary theories of language, philosophy of language, and theoretical computer science and  linguistics.

Carlos Mariscal

Carlos Mariscal was a recent PhD in philosophy of biology at Duke University. He was a James B. Duke Scholar, a USP Fellow, and a Susan Goodman Stern Dissertation Fellow. His research centers on universal aspects of biology, origins of life, and philosophy of astrobiology. He designed this website.

Rafael Ventura

Rafael Ventura is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Duke University. He works primarily on evolutionary models of language. His interests also include philosophy of language, philosophy of biology, general philosophy of science, and metaphilosophical issues, such as the use of quantitative methods in philosophy. He currently organizes the reading group and related events. He maintains this website.

Previous NSF Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Chris Haufe (2006-2007)
  • Natalie Gold (2005-2006)
  • Marshall Abrams (2004-2005)