Philosophy of Biology (Science 3)

Subject HPSC30025 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

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

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 90 minute lecture and 1 x 60 minute tutorial each day of the two week teaching period. Teaching will commence on Monday 1st of July.
Total Time Commitment:

102 hours total committemnt


At least two of the following subjects (25 points) must be completed before enrolling in HPSC30025:

HPSC20001 Darwinism

HPSC20010 Intimacy and Technology

HPSC20020 God and the Natural Sciences

HPSC20002 A History of Nature

PHIL20001 Science, Reason and Reality

HPSC20009 Cybersociety

HPSC20015 Astronomy in World History



Recommended Background Knowledge:

Knowledge gained in the completion of at least two HPS subjects at level 2.

Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed 'Philosophy of Biology' under any of the codes 136-207, 136-307, 672-326 or HPSC30028 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:


Dr Stephen Fleischfresser

Subject Overview:

Is biology a unique and autonomous science? Is biology the same kind of science as physics? 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? In biology, can causes be effects and effects be causes and how on earth do you make sense of biological matter if they can? What is the role of metaphor in science? Can the intricacies of our evolved minds be decoded using nothing but calipers and a stack of old men’s magazines, or is this yet another example of sexism in science? These are some of the questions considered in this subject. These issues and more are pursued through case studies which might include study of the work of Robert Brown - an early 19th century taxonomist, the theories and experiments of Nobel prizewinner Barbara McClintock, the writings of Charles Darwin and the theoretical empire-building of E.O. Wilson.


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 two weeks after the teaching period) and a 2-hour exam 50% (at the end of the teaching period).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days, late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

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 is not available as a breadth subject.

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:

This subject is only available to pre 2008 science students for credit at third year level. Students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course pre-2008 (except for the BA/BSc) will receive science credit for the completion of this subject. This subject is not available as Breadth for new Gen students. for New Gen Breadth or credit for a B-Arts major please see HSC30028

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