PhD Project F. Papale

    My doctoral thesis in philosophy of biology is focused on scientific classificatory practices. Classificatory practices refer to descriptions of the world that work by dividing and discriminating phenomena and by establishing relationships between ensuing classes. Specifically, I dissect the justificatory or argumentative structure of contemporary phylogenetic practices in order to analyze the explicit and implicit assumptions of cutting-edge research in this field. This allows me to provide accurate descriptions of the contemporary landscape of the discipline and to assess the continuities and discontinuities between standard or traditional practices on one side and novel or innovative ones on the other. Throughout this philosophical analysis, the main hypothesis I am testing stands as follows: phylogenetics and evolutionary inquiries at large are united by their inferential focus on intraspecific (or intraclass) similarity and their neglect of intraclass variation.

    While this thesis is first and foremost a piece of philosophical analysis meant to provide insights into the epistemic structure of phylogenetics and to generalize these insights to other scientific classificatory endeavors, the work being done will also be of interest to biologists because of its theoretical imports. The philosophical model mobilized provides a new outlook on the work of phylogeneticists that deeply transforms the proper way to assess the validity of phylogenetic hypotheses and the relevance of alleged evidences sustaining them. In other words, this project offers biologists better philosophical tools to analyze the work being done in their field.

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