I am a Philosopher of Biology
I am a researcher in the humanities. A philosopher of biology. I don’t advance scholarship by generating empirical data. Instead, I critically consider fundamental biological concepts and arguments. My job is to give precise and general interpretations of these concepts that also capture their roles in scientific practice. In a nutshell, I conceptualize scientific work.
My line of work creates unique challenges.
I don’t work with data. The type of things I analyze are the types of things I output. I read papers and write papers. Between reading and writing, I do not design experiments, generate data, analyze the results. Instead, I roam in a vast and complex space of “thinking.”
My research and “thinking” process is much like other scholarly work. However, while the thinking process is similar, the exact aims, readings, and analyses set me apart from empirical scholars.
First, I need to be very clear about what I aim to do. Decision-making takes up most of my time. Second, I carefully decide what to read. I read biology to figure out the scientific conceptual debates I can contribute to (this is where I pick my materials, but the terrain is wild and the roads are misleading). I read philosophy to see how scholars like me have analyzed these debates (this is where I pick my battles, but the scope is wide and the schools are too many). Last, I define concepts and create arguments. I constantly ask: Why am I choosing one definition over the other? Why does it matter? How should I back up my claims?
How do I further my field? I show how differences in fundamental concepts can have enormous impact on theories and general understanding. I uncover rich scientific debates yet untouched by philosophers and re-introduce old debates to the current scientific world.
I am a philosopher of biology. I inhabit a strange world, even stranger that it is a world where I need to constantly think: what is it that I do, really?!