Dr Jonathan G Birch

Junior Research Fellow
Research interests
Philosophy of science, esp. philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science

I’m a philosopher of science, specializing in the theory and philosophy of the biological and behavioural sciences.

From bacteria to baboons, from mitochondria to meerkats, from sperm cells to sperm whales, cooperation is rife in the biological world. Yet the nature of prosocial behaviour has gone largely unexamined in the philosophy of science; and the most general and most widely used framework for understanding its evolution, W. D. Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness, has received relatively little philosophical attention. My work examines the conceptual foundations of social evolution theory and addresses theoretical controversies that recent advances in the field have generated.

I’m currently investigating how recent developments in microbiology, molecular biology and systems biology challenge our traditional understanding of how cooperation evolves, motivating an expanded conception of inclusive fitness.

Selected publications

(forthcoming) 'Propositional content in signalling systems', Philosophical Studies.

(forthcoming) ‘Hamilton’s rule and its discontents’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

(2013) ‘On the “simulation argument” and selective scepticism’, Erkenntnis 78(1):95-107.

(2012) ‘Collective action in the fraternal transitions’, Biology and Philosophy 27(3):363-380.

(2012) ‘The negative view of natural selection’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43(2):569-573.