Tim Lewens

Tim Lewens is University Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.

  • Organisms and Artifacts

    Organisms and Artifacts

    Design in Nature and Elsewhere

    Tim Lewens

    In Organisms and Artifacts, Tim Lewens investigates the analogical use of the language of design in evolutionary biology. Uniquely among the natural sciences, biology uses descriptive and explanatory terms more suited to artifacts than organisms. When biologists discuss, for example, the purpose of the panda's thumb and look for functional explanations for organic traits, they borrow from a vocabulary of intelligent design that Darwin's findings could have made irrelevant over a hundred years ago. Lewens argues that examining the analogy between the processes of evolution and the processes by which artifacts are created—looking at organisms as analogical artifacts—sheds light on explanations of the form of both organic and inorganic objects. He argues further that understanding the analogy is important for what it can tell us not only about biology but about technology and philosophy.

    In the course of his argument, Lewens discusses issues of interest to philosophers of biology, biologists, philosophers of mind, and students of technology. These issues include the pitfalls of the design-based thinking of adaptationism, the possible conflict between selection explanations and developmental explanations, a proposed explanation of biological function, and prospects for an informative evolutionary model of technological change. Emerging from these discussions is an explanation of the use of the vocabulary of intelligence and intention in biology that does not itself draw on the ideas of intelligent design, which will be of interest in the ongoing debate over intelligent design creationism.

    Bradford Books imprint

    • Hardcover $34.00
    • Paperback $4.75


  • Functions in Biological and Artificial Worlds

    Functions in Biological and Artificial Worlds

    Comparative Philosophical Perspectives

    Ulrich Krohs and Peter Kroes

    Investigations into the relationship between organism and artifacts from the perspective of functionality.

    The notion of function is an integral part of thinking in both biology and technology; biological organisms and technical artifacts are both ascribed functionality. Yet the concept of function is notoriously obscure (with problematic issues regarding the normative and the descriptive nature of functions, for example) and demands philosophical clarification. So too the relationship between biological organisms and technical artifacts: although entities of one kind are often described in terms of the other—as in the machine analogy for biological organism or the evolutionary account of technological development—the parallels between the two break down at certain points. This volume takes on both issues and examines the relationship between organisms and artifacts from the perspective of functionality. Believing that the concept of function is the root of an accurate understanding of biological organisms, technical artifacts, and the relation between the two, the contributors take an integrative approach, offering philosophical analyses that embrace both biological and technical fields of function ascription. They aim at a better understanding not only of the concept of function but also of the similarities and differences between organisms and artifacts as they relate to functionality. Their ontological, epistemological, and phenomenological comparisons will clarify problems that are central to the philosophies of both biology and technology.

    ContributorsPaul Sheldon Davies, Maarten Franssen, Wybo Houkes, Yoshinobu Kitamura, Peter Kroes, Ulrich Krohs, Tim Lewens, Andrew Light, Françoise Longy, Peter McLaughlin, Riichiro Mizoguchi, Mark Perlman, Beth Preston, Giacomo Romano, Marzia Soavi, Pieter E. Vermaas

    • Hardcover $60.00