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David Hull’s philosophy

David Hull was one of the first graduates from the University of Indiana’s HPS program. During that program he attended a seminar with Karl Popper in the course of which he wrote a paper on essentialism in biology. Popper took it upon himself to send this, without telling Hull, to the BJPS, and the first David knew of it was when the proofs arrived. He hurriedly rewrote it (in ways Popper would not have approved, but Popper never read the final version, apparently) and it became the most cited paper of its time in the philosophy of biology.

Hull proposed that Mendelian genetics was not reducible to molecular genetics early in the 1970s, in his book The Philosophy of Biological Science in 1974. The year before, he had published a book Darwin and His Critics. These two books effectively set the debate in the history and philosophy of biology for the next forty years. He adopted many of Ernst Mayr’s views on the history of biology, particularly the (I claim) false notion that before Darwin, people were wedded to Aristotelian logic in natural history, but he also noted that Darwin’s reception was rapidly positive, and that religious opposition to his theories did not immediately arise.

Hull was also an early adopter of Richard Dawkins’ views on evolution, enthusiastically taking up the notion of a replicator, an entity that exactly or very nearly so copies its structure, and his own term interactor (replacing Dawkins’ term “vehicle”, which was more passive) for the environmental aspects of the evolving objects, as the foundational ontology of evolution. He expanded Dawkins’ idea of the meme, the cultural replicator, into a full-blown theory of science as an evolutionary process, hence the title of his 1988 book. He had his own twist, though. Following on from William Hamilton’s notion of “inclusive fitness” as a driver of evolution, Hull supposed that memes were also inclusively fit – that it, a meme was fit if any of the individuals who had it flourished, and all who had a copy of the scientific meme shared in “conceptual inclusive fitness”. This meant that the measure of a scientist’s fitness was the extent to which their ideas and work were cited and used by others.

From this followed his “demic” conception of science (and, indeed, all cultural disciplines and traditions): to get ahead you have to make and maintain a circle of allies and colleagues, to promote each others’ work and protect each others’ professional interests. This didn’t mean you agreed with each other. David himself was close friends with, and a demic partner, of Michael Ruse, although they disagreed on crucial issues. But he lived by his own views, and as a result a great many people, such as myself, owe David a lot of help. The Replication entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia is coauthored by me because David thought I could advance my career by maintaining his article, for example.

Hull added to this ontology of evolution by stressing two other aspects: the lineage, a term of G. G. Simpson’s which he generalised to all kinds of objects; and the population. From these sine quibus non, Hull thought that evolution was a necessary outcome. He also made out the claim that all the entities of evolution were historical individuals, not classes or natural kinds. Species, in particular, were historical individuals in his view, which he and Michael Ghiselin argued in favour of. Stephen Gould’s massive Structure of Evolutionary Theory begins by attacking Hull’s claim that all evolutionary things are historical individuals, including things like “Darwinism” [Hull’s response is here]. Hull was also one of the first philosophers to take cladism seriously.

He held that selective processes worked in all evolutionary processes, including immunology and culture. His view of science was a “hidden hand” view, in which the competitive aspects of science, as well as the cooperative, led to the progress of scientific theories. However, he often noted that scientists, like organisms and genes, would act altruistically and cooperatively, because altruism at one level was inclusive self-interest at another.

This entry will expand, so subscribe to it if you can.

See Paul Griffiths’ essay “David Hull’s Natural Philosophy of Science” for more. I have added my bibliography of David’s works below the fold.

Works by David Hull

Heyes, Cecilia M., and David L. Hull. 2001. Selection theory and social construction: the evolutionary naturalistic epistemology of Donald T. Campbell, SUNY series in philosophy and biology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hull, David L. 1964. Consistency and Monophyly. Systematic Zoology 13 (1):1-11.

1965. The effect of essentialism on taxonomy: Two thousand years of stasis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 15:314-326, 316:311-318.

1967a. Certainty and Circularity in Evolutionary Taxonomy. Evolution 21 (1):174-189.

1967b. The metaphysics of evolution. British Journal for the History of Science 3 (12):309-337.

1973a. A populational approach to scientific change. Science 182:1121-1124.

1974a. Are members of biological species similar to each other? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 25 (4):332-334.

1974b. Philosophy of biological science. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

1975. The ontological status of species as evolutionary units. In Foundational Problems in the Special Sciences: Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, London, Ontario, Canada, edited by R. E. Butts and J. Hintikka. Dordrecht, Holland; Boston: D. Reidel:91-102.

1976a. Are species really individuals? Systematic Zoology 25:174-191.

1976b. Informal aspects of theory reduction. Dordrecht: Reidel.

1977. The ontological status of species as evolutionary units. In Foundational problems in special sciences, edited by R. Butts and J. Hintikka. Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel:91-102.

1978a. Altruism in science: A sociobiological model of cooperative behavior among scientists. Animal Behaviour 26:685-697.

1978b. A matter of individuality. Philosophy of Science 45:335-360.

1978c. The sociology of sociobiology. New Sci 79 (1121):862-865.

1979a. The limits of cladism. Systematic Zoology 28:416-440.

1979b. Philosophical Issues in Systematics. Introduction. Systematic Zoology 28 (4):520.

1980a. Individuality and selection. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:311-332.

1980b. Sociobiology: Another new synthesis. In Sociobiology: Beyond nature/nurture? AAAS Selected Symposium 35, edited by G. W. Barlow and J. Silverberg. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

1981. Units of evolution: a metaphysical essay. In The philosophy of evolution, edited by U. L. Jensen and R. Harré. Brighton UK: Harvester Press:23-44.

1982a. Exemplars and Scientific Change. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:479-503.

1982b. The naked meme. In Learning, development and culture: Essays in evolutionary epistemology, edited by H. Plotkin. New York: Wiley:273-327.

1983a. Conceptual evolution and the eye of the octopus. Paper read at Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, at Salzburg , Austria.

1983b. Darwin and the nature of science. In Evolution from molecules to men, edited by D. S. Bendall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1983c. Thirty-one years of Systematic Zoology. Systematic Zoology 32:315-342.

1984a. Can Kripke alone save essentialism? A reply to Kitts. Systematic Zoology 33:110-112.

1984b. Cladistic theory: Hypotheses that blur and grow. In Cladistic perspectives on the reconstruction of evolutionary history, edited by T. Duncan and T. Stuessy. New York: Columbia University Press:5-23.

1984c. Darwinism as a historical entity. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by D. Kohn. Wellington, New Zealand: Nova Pacifica.

1984d. Historical entities and historical narratives. In Minds, machines, and evolution, edited by C. Hookway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1984e. Lamarck among the Anglos. In Introduction to reprinted edition of J. B. Lamarck’s Zoological Philosophy: An Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

1985. Conceptual evolution and the eye of the octopus. In Seventh proceedings of the international congress of logic methodology and philosophy of science, edited by P. Weingartner, R. B. Marcus and G. Dorn. Dordrecht, Netherlands: D. Reidel:643-665.

1986. On Human Nature. In PSA 1986: Proceedings of the 1986 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, edited by A. Fine and P. K. Machamer. East Lansing, Michigan: Philosophy of Science Association:3–13.

1987. Genealogical actors in ecological roles. Biology and Philosophy 2:168-184.

1988a. Interactors versus vehicles. In The role of behavior in evolution, edited by H. C. Plotkin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

1988b. A mechanism and its metaphysics: An evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science. Biology and Philosophy 3:123-155.

1988c. A period of development: A response. Biology and Philosophy 3:241-261.

1988d. Science as a process: an evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1989a. A function for actual examples in philosophy of science. In What the philosophy of biology is: Essays dedicated to David Hull, edited by M. Ruse. Dordrecht: Kluwer:309-321.

1989b. The metaphysics of evolution. Albany: State University of New York Press.

1990a. Conceptual Selection. Philosophical Studies:77-87.

1990b. Farris on Haeckel, history, and Hull. Systematic Zoology 39:397-399.

1990c. Review of: Transformed cladistics, taxonomy and evolution. Systematic Zoology 39:420-423.

1991. Common sense and science. Biology and Philosophy 6 (4):467.

1992a. An evolutionary account of science: A response to Rosenberg’s critical notice. Biology and Philosophy 7 (2):229-236.

1992b. Individual. In Keywords in evolutionary biology, edited by E. Keller and E. Lloyd. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press:180-187.

1994a. Contemporary Systematic Philosophies. In Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, edited by E. Sober. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press:295–330.

1994b. Ernst Mayr, Influence on the history and philosophy of biology – a personal memoir. Biology and Philosophy 9 (3):375–386.

1994c. Review: [untitled]. The Quarterly Review of Biology 69 (3):385-386.

1994d. Trees of Life – Essays in Philosophy of Biology. – P Griffiths. Biology and Philosophy 9 (1):105–112.

1997. The ideal species concept – and why we can’t get it. In Species: The units of diversity, edited by M. F. Claridge, H. A. Dawah and M. R. Wilson. London: Chapman and Hall:357-380.

1998. Studying the study of science scientifically. Perspectives on Science 6 (3):209-231.

1999a. On the plurality of species: Questioning the party line. In Species, New interdisciplinary essays, edited by R. A. Wilson. Cambridge, MA: Bradford/MIT Press:23-48.

1999b. The Use and Abuse of Sir Karl Popper. Biology and Philosophy 14 (4):481-504.

2000. Why Did Darwin Fail? The Role of John Stuart Mill. In Biology and epistemology, edited by R. Creath and J. Maienschein. Cambridge UK; New York: Cambridge University Press:48-63.

2001a. The success of science and social norms. Hist Philos Life Sci 23 (3-4):341-360.

2001b. Science and selection: essays on biological evolution and the philosophy of science, Cambridge studies in philosophy and biology. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

2002. Recent philosophy of biology: a review. Acta Biotheor 50 (2):117-128.

2003. Darwin’s science and Victorian philosophy of science. In The Cambridge companion to Darwin, edited by J. Hodge and G. Radick. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press:168-191.

2005. Deconstructing Darwin: Evolutionary Theory in Context. Journal of the History of Biology 38 (1):137.

Hull, David L., ed. 1973b. Darwin and his critics; the reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by the scientific community. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Hull, David L., and Sigrid S. Glenn. 2005. Multiply concurrent replication. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (06):902-904.

Hull, David L., Rodney E. Langman, and Sigrid S. Glenn. 2001. A general account of selection: biology, immunology, and behavior. Behav Brain Sci 24 (3):511-528; discussion 528-573.

Hull, David L., and Michael Ruse. 1998a. The philosophy of biology, Oxford readings in philosophy. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

———, eds. 1998b. The philosophy of biology. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Hull, David L., Peter D. Tessner, and Arthur M. Diamond. 1978. Planck’s Principle. Science 202 (4369):717-723.

Hull, David L., and John S. Wilkins. 2005–. Replication. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Ruse, Michael, and David L. Hull. 1989. What the philosophy of biology is: essays dedicated to David Hull, Nijhoff international philosophy series; v. 32. Dordrecht; Boston

Works about David Hull [very incomplete]

Andersson, Claes. 2008. Sophisticated selectionism as a general theory of knowledge. Biology and Philosophy 23 (2):229-242.

Bowler, Peter J. 2004. David L. Hull: Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science. Isis 95:174-174.

Brooks, D. R., and E. O. Wiley. 1988. Evolution as entropy: toward a unified theory of biology. Edited by D. L. Hull. 2nd ed, Science and its conceptual foundations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Burghardt, Gordon M. 1990. Realistic philosophy of science. Review of Science as a Process, by David L. Hull. American Journal of Primatology 20 (4):293-295.

Castle, D. 2002. David Hull, Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 23 (2):291-291.

Colless, Donald. 2006. Taxa, individuals, clusters and a few other things. Biology and Philosophy 21 (3):353-367.

Darden, Lindley. 2007. Mechanisms and Models. In The Cambridge Companion to the philosophy of biology, edited by D. L. Hull and M. Ruse. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press:139-159.

Downes, Stephen M. 2000. Truth, Selection and Scientific Inquiry. Biology and Philosophy 15 (3):425-442.

Ellegard, Alvar. 1990. Darwin and the general reader: the reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution in the British periodical press, 1859-1872. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fleck, J. 1992. Book Reviews: … Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science, by David L. Hull… Science, Technology & Human Values 17 (2):237.

Gatensrobinson, E. 1993. Why Falsification Is the Wrong Paradigm for Evolutionary Epistemology – an Analysis of Hull’s Selection Theory. Philosophy of Science 60 (4):535-557.

Ghiselin, Michael T. 1974. Book Review: Philosophy of Biological Science. David L. Hull. Quarterly Review of Biology 49 (4):333.

Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2007. Information in Biology. In The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, edited by D. L. Hull and M. Ruse. New York: Cambridge University Press:103-119.

Grantham, Todd. 1994. Does Science have a “global goal?”: a critique of Hull’s view of conceptual progress. Biology and Philosophy 9 (1):85–97.

Grene, Marjorie Glicksman. 2002. Reply to David Hull. The Philosophy of Marjorie Grene. Open Court, La Salle, IL:279–283.

Griffiths, Paul E. 2000. David Hull’s Natural Philosophy of Science. Biology and Philosophy 15:301–310.

Griffiths, Paul E, and Karola Stotz. 2007. Gene. In Cambridge Companion to Philosophy of Biology, edited by M. Ruse and D. Hull. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press:85-102.

Goodman, Nelson, Mary Douglas, and David L. Hull. 1992. How classification works: Nelson Goodman among the social sciences. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Heyes, Cecilia M. 2001. Selection Theory and Social Construction: The Evolutionary Naturalistic Epistemology of Donald T. Campbell. Edited by L. H. David: State University of New York Press.

Kingsbury, Justine. 2008. Learning and selection. Biology and Philosophy 23 (4):493-507.

Kitcher, Philip. 1989. Some puzzles about species. In What the philosophy of biology is: essays dedicated to David Hull, edited by M. Ruse. Dordrecht: Kluwer:183-208.

Kitts, David B, and David J Kitts. 1979. Biological species as natural kinds. Philosophy of Science 46:613-622.

Mary, D. 1991. La dualité génotype-phénotype en épistémologie évolutionnaire: remarques sur le modèle de David Hull: Groupe de recherche en èpistèmologie comparèe.

Maynard Smith, John. 1988. Science as a Process. An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science. David L. Hull. Science 242 (4882):1182.

Mikkelson, Greg. 2007. Ecology. In The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, edited by D. L. Hull and M. Ruse: Cambridge University Press.

Mishler, Brent D., and Robert N. Brandon. 1987. Individuality, pluralism, and the Phylogenetic Species Concept. Biology and Philosophy 2:397-414.

Mosterin, Jesus. 1988. Ontological Queries and Evolutionary Processes: Comments on Hull. Biology and Philosophy 3:204-209.

Nelson, Gareth J., and Colin Patterson. 1993. Cladistics, Sociology and Success – a Comment on Donoghue’s Critique of David Hull. Biology & Philosophy 8 (4):441-443.

Oldroyd, David. 1990. David Hull’s evolutionary model for the progress and process of science. Biology and Philosophy 5:473-487.

Overmann, Ronald J. 2000. David Hull, Hod Carrier. Biology and Philosophy 15 (3):311-320.

Plantinga, Alvin. 1991. When faith and reason clash: evolution and the Bible. Christian Scholar’s Review 21:8-32.

Rosenberg, Alexander. 1992. Science and selection: Critical notice of David Hull’s Science as a process. Biology and Philosophy 7:217-228.

Ruiz, Rosaura, and Francisco J. Ayala. 1993. La epistemologìa evolutiva de David Hull: ¿Existe una ciencia de la difusion de teorìas cientìficas? [David Hull’s Evolutionary Epistemology: Does there Exist a Science for the Diffusion of Scientific Theories?]. Arbor 145 (568):9-29.

———. 1996. La analogía sociobiológica del desarrolllo de la ciencia, la epistemología evolucionista de David Hull. Asclepio : archivo iberoamericano de historia de la medicina y antropología médica 48 (2):129-148.

Ruse, Michael. 1989. David Hull through two decades. In What the philosophy of biology is: essays dedicated to David Hull, edited by M. Ruse: Kluwer Academic Pub:1.

Ruse, Michael, and David L. Hull. 1989. What the philosophy of biology is: essays dedicated to David Hull, Nijhoff international philosophy series; v. 32. Dordrecht; Boston

Sober, Elliott. 1994. Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Vernon, K. 2009. David L. Hull. Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science. The British Journal for the History of Science 22 (04):461-462.

Vicente, Kim J. 2000. Is science and evolutionary process? Evidence from miscitations of the scientific literature. Perspectives on Science 8 (1):53-69.

Wilkins, John S. 1998a. The evolutionary structure of scientific theories. Biology and Philosophy 13 (4):479–504.

———. 1998b. What’s in a Meme? Reflections from the perspective of the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology. Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission 2:2–33 <>.

———. 2002. Darwinism as metaphor and analogy: language as a selection process. Selection: Molecules, Genes, Memes 3 (1):57-74.

———. 2008. The adaptive landscape of science. Biology and Philosophy 23 (5):659-671.

———. 2009. Species: a history of the idea, Species and Systematics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

———. 2010. What is a species? Essences and generation. Theory in Biosciences 129:141–148.

Wilson, Robert A., ed. 1999. Species: new interdisciplinary essays. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Winsor, Mary Pickard. 2006. The Creation of the Essentialism Story: An Exercise in Metahistory. Hist. Phil. Life Sci. 28:149-174.

Wisdom, John O. 1976. Book Reviews: Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community. By David L. Hull. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 6 (2):189.

Woodcock, Scott. 2010. David L. Hull and Michael Ruse, eds., The Cambridge Companion to The Philosophy of Biology. Philosophy in Review 29 (2):114.

Wray, K. Brad. 2000. Invisible Hands and the Success of Science. Philosophy of Science 67 (1):163-175.
———. 2002. The epistemic significance of collaborative research. Philosophy of Science 69 (March 2002):150-168.
———. 2003. Is Science Really a Young Man’s Game? Social Studies of Science 33 (1):137-149.


  1. DonE DonE

    Thanks for the expanded obituary. This list of work is truly monumental.

  2. Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

    Thanks for the bibliography. I read a number of his books and articles when working on my dissertation, but I should catch up on some of the newer work. I think I will go find the “Deconstructing Darwin” article now.

  3. Wonderful. I just re-read Science as a Process (for the third time) this summer as I was lounging in Queensland. I’m thinking of trying to write a blog looking at the current problems in psychology (and other sciences) with weak and unreliable results through this lens. If that ever gets off the ground.

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