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Reutlinger, Alexander (2014): Natural Law and Universality in the Philosophy of Biology. In: European Review, Vol. 22, No. 51: S145-S162
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Abstract

Several philosophers of biology have argued for the claim that the generalizations of biology are historical and contingent.1–5 This claim divides into the following sub-claims, each of which I will contest: first, biological generalizations are restricted to a particular space-time region. I argue that biological generalizations are universal with respect to space and time. Secondly, biological generalizations are restricted to specific kinds of entities, i.e. these generalizations do not quantify over an unrestricted domain. I will challenge this second claim by providing an interpretation of biological generalizations that do quantify over an unrestricted domain of objects. Thirdly, biological generalizations are contingent in the sense that their truth depends on special (physically contingent) initial and background conditions. I will argue that the contingent character of biological generalizations does not diminish their explanatory power nor is it the case that this sort of contingency is exclusively characteristic of biological generalizations.