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E&S Home > Vol. 14, Iss. 2 > Art. 22 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Philosophical Issues in Ecology: Recent Trends and Future Directions

Mark Colyvan, University of Sydney
Stefan Linquist, University of Guelph
William Grey, University of Queensland
Paul E. Griffiths, University of Sydney
Jay Odenbaugh, Lewis and Clark College
Hugh P Possingham, University of Queensland


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Philosophy of ecology has been slow to become established as an area of philosophical interest, but it is now receiving considerable attention. This area holds great promise for the advancement of both ecology and the philosophy of science. Insights from the philosophy of science can advance ecology in a number of ways. For example, philosophy can assist with the development of improved models of ecological hypothesis testing and theory choice. Philosophy can also help ecologists understand the role and limitations of mathematical models in ecology. On the other side, philosophy of science will be advanced by having ecological case studies as part of the stock of examples. Ecological case studies can shed light on old philosophical topics as well as raise novel issues for the philosophy of science. For example, understanding theoretical terms such as “biodiversity” is important for scientific reasons, but such terms also carry political importance. Formulating appropriate definitions for such terms is thus not a purely scientific matter, and this may prompt a reevaluation of philosophical accounts of defining theoretical terms. We consider some of the topics currently receiving attention in the philosophy of ecology and other topics in need of attention. Our aim is to prompt further exchange between ecology and philosophy of science and to help set the agenda for future work in the philosophy of ecology. The topics covered include: the role of mathematical models, environmental problem formulation, biodiversity, and environmental ethics.

Key words

biodiversity; community ecology; decision theory; environmental ethics; hypothesis testing; philosophy of ecology; population models

Copyright © 2009 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087