What are the agents of life? Central to our conception of the biological world is the idea that it contains various kinds of individuals, including genes, organisms, and species. How we conceive of these agents of life is central to our understanding of the relationship between life and mind, the place of hierarchical thinking in the biological sciences, and pluralistic views of biological agency. Genes and the Agents of Life rethinks the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life, but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. A companion to Boundaries of the Mind, (Cambridge, 2004) where the focus is on the cognitive sciences, this volume will appeal to professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds (Cambridge, 1995).
"Wilson provides an important new perspective on many of the key problems in the philosophy of biology through his highly original focus on the locus of agency in explanations. Any philosopher with interests in the life or human sciences will gain valuable new insights from this work." Paul E. Griffiths, University of Pittsburgh "This is a bold, absorbing, and deeply-informed book...[Wilson's] views are often controversial and provocative, but always clearly and lucidly argued. As well as fostering productive debate within the philosophy of biology, this book has the potential to show a much wider audience why this discipline is currently so exciting." John Dupre, University of Exeter