DOCTORAL OPPORTUNITY – Biological complexity – still open

Despite receiving some good applications, I’ve been unable to find the right match for this position yet, originally advertised in August. If you are interested please follow instructions in the original ad here:

The opportunity will expire at end of January.

Sydney HPS Winter School on Evolutionary Medicine

The 2020 Sydney History and Philosophy of Science Winter School will take place from Monday 27 July to Friday 31 July. The year’s topic is the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Medicine. The school will run for four days with an excursion on the last day.

Both history and philosophy of science have the potential to contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature and potential of Evolutionary Medicine. Some philosophers of science have examined key concepts in the field. Others have debated its potential to inform medical practice, or to transform understanding of health and disease. These debates will be explored and advanced at the Winter School. Evolutionary Medicine is underexplored in the history of science and medicine. The Winter School will explore perspectives on this history from both leading practitioners and HPS scholars. The overall aim of the Winter School is to encourage and enable philosophical and methodological commentary on evolutionary medicine, and to develop an agenda for research on evolutionary medicine by historians of science and medicine.

The Winter School will be of interest to early career researchers in history and philosophy of science, as well as to ECRs in medicine and biomedical science who want a broader perspective  on Evolutionary Medicine.

Confirmed instructors:

Randolph M. Nesse (Arizona State University)

Tatjana Buklijas (University of Auckland)

Paul Griffiths (The University of Sydney)

Dominic Murphy (The University of Sydney)

Djuke Veldhuis (Monash University)

Applications to attend the Winter School, and applications for financial support for postgraduate students, will open with a more detailed announcement about the Winter School in February.

Please feel free to distribute this announcement to others. For all enquiries please email

Organised by the School of History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney with support from the University of Sydney and the John Templeton Foundation.

Health as a secondary property – print version finally out

Health as a Secondary Property 

The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 70, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 609–627,

In the literature on health, naturalism and normativism are typically characterized as espousing and rejecting, respectively, the view that health is objective and value-free. This article points out that there are two distinct dimensions of disagreement, regarding objectivity and value-ladenness, and thus arranges naturalism and normativism as diagonal opposites on a two-by-two matrix of possible positions. One of the remaining quadrants is occupied by value-dependent realism, holding that health facts are value-laden and objective. The remaining quadrant, which holds that they are non-objective but value-free, is unexplored. The article endorses a view in the latter quadrant, namely, the view that health is a secondary property. The article argues that a secondary property framework provides the resources to respond to the deepest objections to a broadly Boorsean account of natural function, and so preserves the spirit, though not the letter, of that account. Treating health as a secondary property permits a naturalistic explanation—specifically, an evolutionary explanation—of the health concept, in terms of the assistance such a concept might have provided to the survival and reproduction of those organisms that had it. (This approach is completely distinct from evolutionary and aetiological accounts of natural functions.) This provides the explanation, missing from Boorse’s account, for the fact that function is determined with reference to the contribution to the goals of survival and reproduction, relative to the age of the sex of the species, rather than some other equally natural goals or reference classes.

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Two Ways to Disagree about Health
  • 3 Secondary Properties
  • 4 Health as a Secondary Property
  • 5 Conclusion