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Title: An argument for global realism about the units of selection
Contributor(s): Boucher, Alexander  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2023-09-25
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1007/s10539-023-09931-z
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This paper defends global realism about the units of selection, the view that there is always (or nearly always) an objective fact of the matter concerning the level at which natural selection acts. The argument proceeds in two stages. First, it is argued that global conventionalist-pluralism is false. This is established by identifying plausible sufficient conditions for irreducible selection at a particular level, and showing that these conditions are sometimes satisfied in nature. Second, it is argued that local pluralism – the view that while realism is true of some selection regimes, pluralist conventionalism holds for others – should also be rejected. I show that the main arguments for local pluralism are consistent with global realism. I also suggest that local pluralism offers an unacceptably disunified view of the metaphysics of selection. It follows that we should accept global realism. But this leaves open the question of how to classify so called ‘multi-level selection type 1’ (MLS1) processes, such as Wilson’s classic trait-group model for the evolution of altruism: should they be interpreted as particle selection or collective selection? On the assumption of global realism, at most one of these is correct. I argue, against global realists such as Sober, that MLS1 processes should be understood as particle, not collective, selection, due to three features of MLS1: the reducibility of collective fitness, the absence of collective reproduction, and the dispensable role of collectives.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Biology and Philosophy, v.38, p. 1-22
Publisher: Springer Dordrecht
Place of Publication: The Netherlands
ISSN: 1572-8404
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 500204 History and philosophy of science
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 280119 Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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