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Marie I. Kaiser (Department of Philosophy at Bielefeld University, Germany), Individual-level Mechanisms in Ecology and Evolution

24 November 2021 | 17 h 30 min - 18 h 30 min

Marie I. Kaiser  is a Full Professor for Philosophy of Science at the Department of Philosophy at Bielefeld University, Germany. She has a strong interest in the philosophy of biology and in the metaphysics of science (in practice). Read more about her research here.

She studied philosophy and biology at the University of Muenster. In 2012, she received a PhD from the University of Cologne, with a thesis on “The Ontic Account of Explanatory Reduction in Biology”. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and in the DFG Research Group “Causation and Explanation” at the University of Cologne.

In 2016, she joined Bielefeld University as a Junior Professor. After an offer from the University of Mainz in early 2018, she became a Full Professor in Bielefeld. Currently, she is a Principal investigator in the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 212) “A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution” and a Co-investigator of the Templeton Project “From Biological Practice to Scientific Metaphysics” at the University of Calgary, Canada.

Her recent publications include a book on “Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences” that appeared in 2015 with Springer. She is an author of the Philosophy of Science paper “On the Limits of Causal Modeling: Spatially-Structurally Complex Biological Phenomena” (2016) and a coauthor of the BJPS paper on “The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena” (2017).


Individual-level Mechanisms in Ecology and Evolution
Marie I. Kaiser and Rose Trappes

Philosophers have studied mechanisms in many fields in biology. The focus has often been on molecular mechanisms in disciplines such as neuroscience, genetics and molecular biology, with some additional work on population-level mechanisms in ecology and evolution. We present a novel philosophical case study of individual-level mechanisms, mechanisms in ecology and evolution that concern the interactions between an individual and its environment. The mechanisms we analyze are so-called Niche Choice, Niche Conformance and Niche Construction (NC3) mechanisms. Based on a detailed analysis of biologists’ research practices, we develop metaphysical claims about the components and organization of NC3 mechanisms, the phenomena they bring about and how these phenomena relate to individual differences, which are a major explanatory target in this research field. We also demonstrate that a general representation of NC3 mechanisms is highly abstract, with more specific types of NC3 mechanisms in particular study systems exhibiting more complex components organized in more complex ways. Our case study highlights some distinctive features of individual-level mechanisms in ecology and evolution, such as complex and heterogenous organization and multiple phenomena, features which we argue indicate interesting paths for future exploration of the metaphysics of biological mechanisms.

The seminar will be organised via Zoom (ID : 898 0213 1266)



24 November 2021
17 h 30 min - 18 h 30 min
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