Can Biological Practice Inform Metaphysics?

Workshop in Cologne
June 15-16, 2017

Philosophers of science have increasingly shifted their focus away from scientific theories to scientific practice. This workshop seeks to explore what, if anything, the explanatory and investigative strategies of the biological sciences can tell us about reality. Some philosophers draw heavily from biological practices to develop accounts of individuality, the nature of kinds, causal variables, and causal selection. We wish to investigate the relationship between biological practice and metaphysics. Does the former offer a fruitful approach to the latter? What, exactly, does it mean for a metaphysical claim to account for biological practice? Does informing metaphysics with biological practice require that we rethink common views about what counts as metaphysics, what counts as a biological practice, and what sorts of methodological approaches are appropriate? This workshop aims to make explicit methodological and conceptual commitments implicit to the work of philosophers of biology who draw from biological practices.


Thursday, June 15th 2017

9 am – 9:15 Welcome
9:15 – 10:15 Inductive Metaphysics and Scientific Practice
Andreas Hüttemann (University of Cologne)
10:15 – 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 – 11:45 Lessons for Causal Selection from Biological Technology
Janella Baxter (University of Minnesota)
11:45 – 11:50 Short Break
11:50 – 12:50 Making Use of
Adrian Currie (University of Cambridge)
12:50 – 2:50 Lunch
2:50 – 3:50 Process Ontology as a Paradigm for Scientifically Grounded Metaphysics?
John Dupré (University of Exeter)
3:50 – 4:20 Coffee Break
4:20 – 5:20 A Case Study in the Metaphysics of Biological Practice: The Parts of the Human Genome
Marie Kaiser (University of Bielefeld)
5:20 – 5:25 Short Break
5:25 – 6:25 What are Holobionts? – A Case Study for Hard Questions About Biological Individuality
Derek Skillings (University of Bordeaux)
7pm Conference Dinner


Friday, June 16th 2017

9:15 – 10:15 The spiral, the circle and the microbe: heredity and biological Practice
Eva Boon (Eindhoven University)
10:15 – 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 – 11:45 Underlying Concept Structure
Joyce Havstad (Oakland University)
11:45 – 11:50 Short Break
11:50 – 12:50 Individuation and identity: towards a practice-based metaphysics for homology
Catherine Kendig (Michigan State University)
12:50 – 2:50 Lunch
2:50 – 3:50 Metaphysics through Science: The Case of Kinds
Laura Franklin-Hall (New York University)
3:50 – 4:20 Coffee Break
4:20 – 5:20 Taxa aren’t kinds, nor are they individuals: Lessons from phylogenetic practice for the metaphysics of biological classification
Thomas Reydon (Leibniz University)
5:20 – 5:25 Short Break
5:25 – 6 pm Concluding Discussion

Travel Information

For some useful information regarding the travel to Cologne and the conference venue see:


All participants are welcome, but please send a short email to to let us know you are coming.

Travel Grants

We will be able to offer a restricted number of travel grants (up to 250 Euros each). PhD students and advanced M.A. students are encouraged to apply for these grants by submitting a short letter of motivation (200 words) and a short CV. Please send the applications to

Organized by
Janella Baxter (University of Minnesota) and Marie I. Kaiser (University of Bielefeld)

As a cooperation between the
Templeton Project “From Biological Practice to Scientific Metaphysics” (Grant #50191; http://biological- and the DFG Research Group “Causation and Explanation” (

Hosted by
University of Cologne, Department of Philosophy

Funded by
DFG (German Research Foundation)