Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



In the last several decades, philosophers of biology have published countless books and articles on the causal mechanisms underlying evolutionary change. There has been scant effort devoted, however, to detailed analysis of what these mechanisms mean for the relationship between our best interpretations of evolutionary change and our metaphysical picture of the world. This thesis addresses some key aspects of that metaphysical picture. I argue for a metaphysically realist interpretation of dispositions as causally active in evolutionary biology. I address fitness and evolvability in particular, as they present two of the best possible case studies for a metaphysically realist interpretation of dispositions. I claim that dispositional realism is justified in part based on its empirical warrant. That is, as a metaphysics of science, it gives us all the metaphysics we need for making sense of the empirical success of science (especially biology), and no more. I present Ontic Structural Realism as an opposing view. Ontic Structural Realism argues for the dismissal of objects and dispositions on the basis of a certain interpretation of fundamental physics. I present some arguments against this view and in favor of my own.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Pence, Charles H.