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Unformatted text preview: 1 Experimental Philosophy of Biology: Notes from the field Karola Stotz Cognitive Science Program, 810 Eigenmann, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408, firstname.lastname@example.org This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants #0217567 and #0323496, awarded to the author and Paul Griffiths. Abstract I use a recent 'experimental philosophy' study of the concept of the gene conducted by myself and collaborators to discuss the broader epistemological framework within which that research was conducted, and to reflect on the relationship between science, history and philosophy of science, and society. 1. Introduction: Experimental Philosophy of Biology and the 'Biohumanities' A central tenet underlying the work to be described here is that philosophy and science are not clearly separated activities, but aspects of a single inquiry into nature. They are distinguished primarily by the questions they ask, rather than by any restrictions on their 'proper' methods. The new field of experimental philosophy (X-phi) pays tribute to this 'continuity thesis by bringing empirical work to bear on philosophical questions. Its practitioners have not lost their identity as philosophers through their employment of methods traditionally associated with the sciences; rather experimental philosophers (X- philes) perform experiments in an attempt to discern facts of relevance to philosophical debates . It is part of the burden of such work to show that some philosophical issues turn on an empirical supposition that may in turn be tested. With respect to studying the changing concept of the gene previous research by the author and her collaborators has established that it is possible to operationalize questions about conceptual variation in a survey instrument and that the statistical analysis of these questionnaire data reveals the prevalence of particular gene concepts in different biological fields (Stotz, Griffiths, and Knight 2004). The Representing Genes Project at the center of this paper represents an extension of that earlier work. The paper reflects on the motivation for undertaking the Representing Genes study, and experimental philosophy of biology in general. X-phi of biology is a potentially 2 important part of what Paul Griffiths has called the 'biohumanities' 1 . The concept of 'biohumanities' is a vision of the relationship between the humanities (including philosophy of science), biology and society. In this vision, the humanities create knowledge about biology . Both the history of genetics and philosophical work on the concept of the gene of the sort described in this paper enrich our understanding of genetics itself . Contrast this to the vision implicit in the idea of Ethical, Legal and Social Implication (ELSI) research, in which biologists provide the facts and humanists and social sciences work out their implications for society, or to one traditional vision of history and philosophy of science, in which studies of particular sciences are data for...
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- Spring '08