The Value of Philosophy for Ecology
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-10:00 AM
101E, Minneapolis Convention Center
Chelse M. Prather
Thomas E. Miller
Thomas E. Miller
Although the natural sciences, including ecology, once arose from philosophy, the two disciplines have become very disjointed in the last century. At times, ecologists and philosophers alike have both called for a greater philosophical understanding in ecology to answer certain types of questions and recently, philosophers have argued that progress in ecology would be enhanced by explicitly recognizing and utilizing its philosophical basis. Some philosophers’ work has even managed to penetrate ecological dialog: e.g., Kuhn’s paradigm shifts and Popper’s falsification. However, many ecologists seem resistant to these pleas for a philosophical understanding of the field, and many scientists in general think philosophy is not useful to practicing science (e.g., “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds”, attributed to Richard Feynman). We are interested in better understanding if, how, and why ecologists employ philosophy in their practice of science. Is there philosophy of value to the practicing ecologist? Do most ecologists see some role for philosophy of science, or some other type of philosophy? Here, we bring together ecologists from different sub-disciplines at a range of points in their career to give their answer this question, using examples from their work, or other prominent ecological examples of successes or failures of employing philosophy or philosophical tools in ecology.