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CODE 53020
ACADEMIC YEAR 2024/2025
CREDITS
SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINARY SECTOR M-FIL/02
LANGUAGE Italian
TEACHING LOCATION
  • GENOVA
SEMESTER 1° Semester
TEACHING MATERIALS AULAWEB

OVERVIEW

The module analyzes central topics in philosophy of biology with a special focus on epistemological, ontological and ethical aspects related to contemporary developments in evolutionary theory, genetics, and neurobiology.

AIMS AND CONTENT

LEARNING OUTCOMES

The module offers an overview of historical and contemporary debates in philosophy of biology with a special focus on genetics, evolutionary biology, sociobiology, and psychology. Students will need to read and analyze materials at the crossroad of philosophical and scientific research

AIMS AND LEARNING OUTCOMES

The module aims to: Help students develop the analytic skills and conceptual tools required for making rigorous arguments; Analyze theoretical notions such as evolution, heredity, adaptation, epigenetics, nature and nurture, determinism and reductionism by referring to epistemological, ontological and ethical aspects.

Through participation in the teaching activities, students will be able to:

  • Explain and summarize interdisciplinary material through the proper conceptual and linguistic means;
  • Apply philosophical tools to contemporary scientific issues, with a special focus on those arising from the biological sciences;
  • Critically evaluate the relationship between philosophy and science by making conceptual connections, arguments, and counterarguments in autonomy;
  • Effectively communicate and adapt their language to the context;
  • Use various sources and information.

PREREQUISITES

None

TEACHING METHODS

The course will alternate between lectures given by the instructor and optional in-class presentations by attending students on chosen topics. During the course, external researchers may be invited to give seminars on specific subjects, also depending on the interests of the students.

Course materials will be uploaded on Aulaweb. Classes will be held in person.

 


For students with disabilities or specific learning disorders (SLD):

Students with disabilities or SLD are reminded that in order to request exam accommodations, they must first upload their certification on the University’s website at servizionline.unige.it in the "Students" section. The documentation will be verified by the Inclusion Services Department for Students with Disabilities and SLD at the University (https://rubrica.unige.it/strutture/struttura/100111).

Subsequently, with significant advance notice (at least 10 days) before the exam date, an email must be sent to the instructor, with a copy to the School Inclusion Coordinator for students with disabilities and SLD (elisabetta.colagrossi@unige.it) as well as the above-mentioned Department. The email should specify:

  • The name of the course
  • The date of the exam
  • Last name, first name, and student ID number
  • The compensatory tools and dispensatory measures deemed functional and requested

The coordinator will confirm to the instructor that the student is entitled to request accommodations for the exam and that such accommodations must be agreed upon with the instructor. The instructor will respond by communicating whether it is possible to use the requested accommodations.

Requests must be sent at least 10 days before the exam date to allow the instructor to evaluate the content. In particular, if one intends to use concept maps for the exam (which must be much more concise than those used for studying), if the submission does not meet the deadlines, there will not be sufficient time to make any necessary modifications.

For more information on requesting services and accommodations, refer to the document: https://unige.it/sites/unige.it/files/2024-05/Linee%20guida%20per%20la%20richiesta%20di%20servizi%2C%20di%20strumenti%20compensativi%20e_o%20di%20misure%20dispensative%20e%20di%20ausili%20specifici%20Maggio%202024.pdf

SYLLABUS/CONTENT

Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology

The course addresses the central themes in contemporary discussions in the philosophy of biology, focusing on the main philosophical issues (epistemological, ontological, ethical, and social) raised by evolutionary theory and recent developments in evolutionary biology and neurobiology.

Course program:

1. Introduction to the philosophy of biology: topics and methods

2. Philosophy of evolutionary biology: the contemporary discussion on Darwinism, adaptationism, units and levels of natural selection

3. Evolutionary psychology, or how the mind evolves and works: modularity and innateness​

4. The evolution of culture

5. The evolution of cooperation and morality

6. Ethical and social implications of evolutionism

RECOMMENDED READING/BIBLIOGRAPHY

For students attending lectures

Notes and slides of the lectures.

1) One of the following books:

- Buller D. (2006). The Adapting Mind, MIT Press (chapters 1-4 e 8).

- Dupré J. (2007). Natura umana. Perché la scienza non basta, Laterza (chapters 1-5).

2) One of the following:

- Hull D. & Ruse M. (2007). The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, Cambridge University Press (due capitoli a scelta).

- Sterelny K. & Griffiths P. (1999). Sex and Death, University of Chicago Press (una a scelta tra le parti del libro). 

- Singer P. (2011). The Expanding Circle. Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress, Princeton University Press.

- Guardo A. (2024). L'evoluzione della morale per selezione naturale, Raffaello Cortina (chapters 1-7).

- Churchland P. (2012). Neurobiologia della morale, Raffaello Cortina (chapters 1-6).

- Haidt J. (2012). Menti tribali, Codice Edizioni (chapters 1-3, 6-7, 9-10).

 

Students who are not able to attend the lectures

1) Required readings: 

- Pievani T. (2005). Introduzione alla filosofia della biologia, Laterza.

- Dupré J. (2007). Natura umana. Perché la scienza non basta, Laterza.

2) One of the following: 

- Hull D. & Ruse M. (2007), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, Cambridge University Press (two selected chapters).

- Sterelny K. & Griffiths P. (1999). Sex and Death, University of Chicago Press (one among the first four parts of the book). 

- Singer P. (2011). The Expanding Circle. Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress, Princeton University Press.

- Guardo A. (2024), L'evoluzione della morale per selezione naturale, Raffaello Cortina (chapters 1-7).

- Severini E. (2020), Etica ed evoluzionismo, Carocci.

 

Any changes to the texts to be studied for the exam should be arranged with the instructor.

TEACHERS AND EXAM BOARD

LESSONS

EXAMS

EXAM DESCRIPTION

Attending students can choose to either write a paper between 25,000 and 30,000 characters (including spaces, excluding bibliography) and then take an oral exam to discuss their paper and other topics of the course; or they can choose to only take the oral exam.

In the first case, one can focus on one of the sections of the course, though knowledge of the other topics discussed in class will be also assessed. The topic of the paper must be agreed upon with the instructor; the text must be sent by email in Word format at least one week before the exam.

In the second case, along with the notes and slides of the lectures, it is required the study of 2 texts as indicated in the 'Bibliography' section.

Attending students can choose to present in class a scientific paper previously agreed upon with the professor. This will add 1 to 2 points to the final grade.

Non-attending students should study 3 texts as indicated in the Bibliography section.

Any changes to the texts to be studied for the exam should be arranged with the instructor.

ASSESSMENT METHODS

1. Knowledge of the subject
2. Clarity of written and/or oral explanation
3. Use of appropriate language
4. Critical reworking of the material


- Compliance with requirement 1, from 18 to 21

- Compliance with requirements 1-2, from 22 to 25

- Compliance with requirements 1-3, from 26 to 28

- Compliance with requirements 1-4, from 29 to 30 e lode

FURTHER INFORMATION

Students unable to attend lectures are requested to contact the instructor before the examination. Lectures will be delivered in Italian, but it is possible to take the oral examination and receive materials in English.

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