Philosophy of Biology

Subject HPSC30028 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 3 (2 x 1hour lectures and 1 x 1hour tutorial each week)
Total Time Commitment: An average of 8.5 hours each week.
Prerequisites: None.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: Knowledge gained in 75 points of university study (6 subjects) in any area.
Non Allowed Subjects: Students who have completed 'Philosophy of Biology' under any of the codes 136-207, 136-307, 672-326 or HPSC30025 are not permitted top enrol in this subject.
Core Participation Requirements: For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:
Subject Overview:

Is biology a unique and autonomous science? Or are biological issues and theories adequately dealt with by using the framework developed for the physical sciences? Do Kuhnian revolutions occur in the biological sciences? How are the functionalist biological sciences that study physiology and cellular processes linked to and/or distinct from the historical or evolutionary biological sciences? These are some of the questions considered in this subject. Discussion of such general issues is pursued through case studies which might include study of the work of Robert Brown - an early 19th century taxonomist. consideration of the procedures adopted by the mid twentieth century metabolic biochemist, Hans Krebs. and the conditions that led to the rise of molecular biochemistry and genomics in the second half of the twentieth century.


Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • Develop new appreciation of biological concepts through recognising the historical and philosophical circumstances of their emergence
  • Develop the capacity for critical analysis of a theoretical approach to examining biological sciences as systems of knowledge and practice.


A 2000 word essay 50% (due mid-semester) and a 2-hour exam 50% (in the examination period). This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader with key texts will be available from the bookshop.

Further readings will be available on-line through the subject LMS website.

Recommended Texts:

What Makes Biology Unique? Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline (Enrst Mayr), Cambridge University Press 2004

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • Develop analytic and critical reading skills
  • Develop skills in analytic writing

Links to further information:
Notes: 3rd year science Students (pre 8008 only) should enrol in HPSC30025 for science credit. HPSC30025 is not available as Breadth. New Gen students requiring a breath option should enrol in HPSC30028.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Philosophy Major
Related Breadth Track(s): Epistemology, Metaphysics && Science
Science and its Margins

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