Areas of work:


AOS: Philosophy of Biology; General Philosophy of Science; Metaphysics of Science; Biology and Society; Research Ethics.


AOC: Bioethics (esp. Environmental Ethics, Conservation); Philosophy of Technology; Philosophy of Social Science; Philosophy of Science in Science Education.


Research keyword clusters (six primary areas of work with relevant keywords):

  • The philosophy of classification: natural kinds – artifact kinds – species concepts – gene concepts – phylogenetics – systematic biology.
  • Evolutionary theory:  generalized darwinism – selection explanations in non-biological sciences – evolutionary psychology – the biological basis of human nature and behavior.
  • Socially engaged philosophy of science: explication of core concepts in evolution and systematics for science education – exploring how results from work in philosophy of science can be rendered useful in education and public debate – conceptual issues in biodiversity and nature conservation – ELSI in genetics, genomics, gene editing and xenotransplantation.
  • Modes of explanation in the special sciences: law-based explanations in biology – the explanatory force  of historical explanations – the explanatory force of functional explanations.
  • Research ethics: philosophy of science as a basis for research ethics – responsibility of scientists – good scientific practice in the sciences and the humanities.
  • Metaphilosophy: exploring the connection between philosophy of biology & theoretical biology.


Ph.D. students:


➼  As dissertation supervisor or co-supervisor:

  • Martin Wasmer, TBD (Leibniz Universität Hannover, 2017-present), Research Assistant in the project Legal Issues of Genome Editing in Plants and Animals, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and research (BMBF) - dissertation supervisor. 
  • Stefano Canali, The Role of Data and Technology in Contemporary Biomedicine: Integrating Evidence to Study the Relation Between Disease and the Environment (Leibniz Universität Hannover, doctoral stipend of the DFG Research Training Group 2073, Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research, 2016-present) - dissertation supervisor.
  • Koko Kwisda, Neue ethisch relevante Aspekte in der Schnittmenge von Stammzellforschung und der Generierung von Chimären (Leibniz Universität Hannover, 2014-present) - dissertation co-supervisor.
  • Frank M. Fischer, Die Kategorie der Zeit in der Hirnforschung (Leibniz Universität Hannover, 2012-present) - dissertation supervisor.
  • Celso Antônio Alves Neto, Biological Lineages: Epistemological and Ontological Issues (Leibniz Universität Hannover, doctoral stipend of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, CNPq, 2014-2016) - dissertation supervisor until transfer to Calgary.

 ➼  As external committee member / examiner:

  • August Martin (Leiden University, 2013-present).
  • Celso Antônio Alves Neto, The Philosophy of Biological Lineages (University of Calgary, committee member after transfer to Calgary, 2016-present).
  • Stijn Conix, Radical Pluralism, Ontological Underdetermination, and the Role of Values in Species Classification (University of Cambridge, PhD completed 2018).
  • Alba Amilburu Martínez, La Naturaleza de los Géneros Naturales: Un Estudio Crítico Sobre la Contribución de esta Noción a la Comprensión de las Prácticas Clasificatorias en Ciencia (University of the Basque Country, PhD completed 2015).
  • Robert Nagtzaam, In Search of Organizing Principles and Formal Causes of Emergence: Beyond the Predictive Power of the Fundamental Laws of Physics: A Philosophical Investigation (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, PhD completed 2014).

Teaching qualification:


Higher education teaching certificate Weiterbildung in der Hochschullehre (WindH) obtained in 2013. The certificate is issued by the Competence Center for Didactics of Higher Education (KHN) at Braunschweig University of Technology, Germany, and is accredited by the German Society for Didactics in Higher Education (DGHD). The certificate program encompassed 14 one- and two-day courses plus a trial teaching session (amounting to a total of 225 study hours).


Courses taught:


Note: For most courses I have uploaded a syllabus, which may freely be used by individual academics for their own teaching purposes. Just pick and copy whatever you can use for your own teaching! However, commercial use, use by institutions, and re-publication of these materials in any manner are strictly prohibited. (When in doubt, ask me.) As I'm teaching in Germany these syllabuses are in German, but you should be able to get a clear idea of the course set-up anyway.


  Courses in Philosophy (general):

  • Metaphilosophy: What is Philosophy? Undergraduate lecture course / seminar mix with texts by among others James, Russell, Popper, Rescher, Chang, Kitcher, and Godfrey-Smith (fall/winter 2011/2012, fall/winter 2013/2014; spring/summer 2017; the syllabi are  here  (2013/2014) and here (2017) [in German]).
  • Introduction to Metaphysics: Undergraduate topical introduction to metaphysics, covering the metaphysics of objects, persistence, causation, and time, as well as the nature of metaphysics as a philosophical enterprise (spring/summer 2014, spring/summer 2016; the syllabi are here (2014) and here (2016) [in German]).
  • Introduction to Theoretical Philosophy: Introductory lecture series consisting of lectures by six different members of the Institute of Philosophy (course director, fall/winter 2014/2015; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Francis Bacon: Novum Organum: Undergraduate seminar on Bacon’s Novum Organum, Book I and the first parts of Book II, and a selection from the New Atlantis (fall/winter 2011/2012; syllabus here [in German]).
  • George Berkeley: A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Phylonous: Undergraduate seminar on Berkeley’s Treatise and selections from the Three Dialogues (fall/winter 2012/2013; syllabus here [in German]; spring/summer 2018).
  • John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Undergraduate seminar on Locke’s Essay with focus on Books I, II & IV, with selections from Leibniz’ Nouveaux Essais sur l’Entendement Humain (spring/summer 2010; spring/summer 2014; syllabus here [in German]).
  • The Problem of Induction: Classical Texts From Four Centuries: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar with texts from Bacon, Hume, Mill, Reichenbach, Popper, and Goodman (fall/winter 2014/2015; syllabus here [in German]; spring/summer 2018).
  • Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on Popper’s LSD with additional texts by Carnap, Kraft, Miller and Popper (spring/summer 2013; spring/summer 2017; the syllabi are here [2013, in German] and here [2017, in English]).
  • Saul Kripke: Naming and Necessity: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on Kripke's Naming and Necessity with additional texts by Russell and Putnam (fall/winter 2016/2017; syllabus here [in German]).
  • New Work in Ontology and Classification: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on new work in ontology, classification, natural kinds, social kinds, interactive kinds, etc. (spring/summer 2017; syllabus here [in English]).
  • The Philosophy of Natural Kinds: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on contemporary texts on the problem of natural kinds (spring/summer 2006).
  • Research Colloquium for Bachelor and Master’s Theses: Undergraduate & graduate colloquium in which students present and discuss their (ideas for their) Bachelor or Master’s thesis (spring/summer 2011).


  Courses in Philosophy of the Life Sciences (incl. Bioethics):

  • Core Concepts in the Life Sciences: An Introduction to the Philosophy of the Life Sciences: (Advanced) undergraduate & graduate level introduction to core topics in the philosophy of biology (fall/winter 2001 & spring/summer 2002 at Leiden University; fall/winter 2004/2005 & fall/winter 2005/2006 as seminar at Leibniz Universität Hannover; fall/winter 2012/2013 & fall/winter 2015/2016 as lecture course at Leibniz Universität Hannover; spring/summer 2018 as a lecture course plus accompanying seminar at Leibniz Universität Hannover). The syllabi are here (2012/2013) and here (2015/2016) [in German], the lecture slides of the fall/winter semester 2015/2016 (14 lectures) are here.
  • How Does Biology Explain? Forms of Explanation in the Life Sciences: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on specific types of explanations occurring in the life sciences and other special sciences, such as evolutionary explanations, selection explanations, historical explanations, functional explanations, mechanistic explanations, and mathematical explanations (fall/winter 2014/2015; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Biology and Society: Undergraduate course linking topics from philosophy of biology to issues in the area of “biology & society” (fall/winter 2010/2011, fall/winter 2015/2016; syllabi here (2010/2011)and here (2015/2016) [in German]).
  • Biofatalism? The Debate on Evolutionary Psychology, Human Nature, and Society: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar (spring/summer 2016; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Science & Religion: The “Intelligent Design” Debate: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on design arguments in natural religion and the contemporary ID debates, with chapters from Paley’s Natural Theology, chapters 2-8 from Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, as well as contemporary texts from the ID debate (spring/summer 2009; spring/summer 2012; spring/summer 2017; the syllabi are here (2012) and here (2017) [in German]).
  • The Ontology of Biology: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar (spring/summer 2015; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Species Concepts: Graduate lecture course on the theoretical underpinnings and practical uses of different species concepts (Leiden University, spring/summer 2003).
  • Philosophy of Ecology: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar (fall/winter 2007/2008; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Philosophical Questions in Nature and Biodiversity Conservation: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar on classic and contemporary texts on environmental ethics, environmental philosophy, and nature and biodiversity conservation (spring/summer 2011, spring/summer 2014 & fall/winter 2016/2017; syllabus for 2014 here [in German], syllabus for 2016/2017 here [in German]).
  • The Ethics of Agricultural Biotechnology and Food: Graduate level seminar on philosophical problems regarding biotechnology, with focus on agricultural biotechnology, concepts of nature,  and food ethics (spring/summer 2012, spring/summer 2013, spring/summer 2015, spring/summer 2016 & spring/summer 2018; syllabus here (2013), here (2015) and here (2016) [in German]).
  • Ethics for Students in the Life Sciences: Introduction to research ethics & bioethics for students in the life sciences (course director since 2005; taught myself: spring/summer 2005, spring/summer 2006, fall/winter 2006/2007, spring/summer 2008, spring/summer 2009, fall/winter 2009/2010 & spring/summer 2010).
  • Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) in the Life Sciences: Lecture-based ELSI overview course for Ph.D. students in the graduate program of the Hannover School of Biomolecular Drug Research (spring/summer 2015, fall/winter 2015/2016; course description here).
  • Topical Lecture Series: Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (spring/summer 2017; syllabus here [in German]).


  Courses in Philosophy of Science and Technology more generally (incl. Ethics of Science):

  • “Philosophy of …”: The Philosophies of the Special Sciences: Advanced undergraduate level seminar on core topics in the philosophies of physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences, cognitive science, psychology, social sciences, etc. (fall/winter 2010/2011; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Theories and Methods of Research (Philosophy of Science for Life Science and Engineering Students): Introductory lecture course on scientific methodology for students in the M.Sc. programs International Horticulture, and Water Resources and Environmental Management (fall/winter 2015/2016, fall/winter 2016/2017; syllabus for 2015/2016 here [in English], syllabus for 2016/2017 here [in English], slides of all lectures for 2016/2017 here, syllabus for 2017/2018 here [in English]).
  • Philosophy of Technology: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar with texts from Aristotle, Francis Bacon and contemporary authors in analytic philosophy of technology (fall/winter 2009/2010 & fall/winter 2017/2018; syllabus here [in German]).
  • The Nature of Science as a Topic in Philosophy of Science and Science Education: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar (spring/summer 2015; syllabus here [in German]).
  • The Social and Moral Responsibilities of Scientists: Advanced undergraduate / graduate level seminar (spring/summer 2015 & fall/winter 2017/2018; syllabus here [in German]).
  • Good Academic Practice: Exploring Responsibility in the Humanities and the Social Sciences: Combination of two courses, one introductory (undergraduate) and one advanced (graduate), on good scientific practice, responsible conduct of research, and the role of the humanities in academic education as well as in society (the syllabus is here [in German and English], as are the course plan (with assignments) and the lecture slides of the graduate course).
  • Research Ethics and Good Scientific Practice: Short course for Ph.D. students (university-wide, all fields) (spring/summer 2011, fall/winter 2011/2012, spring/summer 2012).
  • Ethical Issues in the Natural Sciences: Lecture-based crash course in research ethics for Ph.D. students in the natural sciences (fall/winter 2010/2011).


  Occasional guest lectures & guest sessions in other people's courses:

  • Two introductory lectures on metaphysics in general and on Aristotle’s metaphysics (two 2-hour sessions) in the undergraduate lecture series Introduction to Theoretical Philosophy (Leibniz Universität Hannover, Philosophy program, fall/winter 2014/2015, fall/winter 2015/2016).
  • Overview lecture (single 2-hour session) on Leibniz’ philosophy in the undergraduate lecture series History of Philosophy (Leibniz Universität Hannover, spring/summer 2010, spring/summer 2011).
  • Guest lecture (single 2-hour session) on research ethics and good scientific practice in the lecture series Chemometry (M.Sc. Analytic Chemistry, Leibniz Universität Hannover, fall/winter 2011/2012).
  • ½-day session on species concepts in the course Advanced Topics in Phylogeny Reconstruction (National Herbarium of the Netherlands & Dutch Research School Biodiversity, M.Sc. & PhD programs, fall/winter 2000, fall/winter 2001, spring/summer 2003).
  • ½-day session on species concepts in the course Biodiversity & Pattern Analysis (Leiden University, undergraduate Biology program, fall/winter 2001, spring/summer 2001, spring/summer 2003).
  • Full day session on values in science in the course Acquiring Scientific Knowledge (Leiden University, undergraduate Biopharmacy program, taught spring/summer 2001).