Colloque | The Biology of Behaviour. Explanatory Pluralism Across the Life Sciences | 10-11.5.2018

10-11 mai 2018, Université du Québec à Montréal, W-5215

Organizers:  Christophe Malaterre and Eric Muszynski, Philosophy, UQAM

Biologists explain the behaviour of organisms in a wide variety of ways. Some look at the mechanisms that underlie specific behaviours, such as the genetic, molecular, developmental or neurobiological factors, whereas others are interested in the evolutionary histories of the traits or their adaptive functions. To what extent do these explanations differ in their aims, methods and conceptual frameworks? And what does a purported plurality of explanatory types imply regarding the competition, collaboration or integration of the multiple explanations?

These explanations furthermore are applied to all types of entities, and at all levels, from single-celled organisms to plants, invertebrates, mammals, humans, groups, populations, and even ecosystems. Are all these uses coherent? Do the explanations apply in the same ways at all levels of organisation or is the widespread use of the term ‘behaviour’ a red herring? It is a notoriously difficult term to define, but this may or may not matter, depending on the role the word is expected to fulfill.

Underlying such inquiries are fundamental epistemological questions, such as the identification of better or worse explanations of behaviour in the biological sciences, and whether various sub-disciplines use the same or different criteria for evaluating those explanations.

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