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We are calling for contributions to a special issue of Studies in History of Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences titled "What counts as environment in biology and medicine? Historical, philosophical and sociological perspectives".
The special issue builds on the panel "The concept of environment in biology: Historical, philosophical and sociological perspectives" that won the award for the best interdisciplinary panel at the 2019 ISHPSSB conference. We are seeking to complement the existing set of papers with new contributions across humanities (especially history and philosophy) and social sciences.
The "environment" is much invoked in contemporary bioscences and medicine, from the considerations of environmental impact to the frequently and prominently appearing notions such as early-life and food environment. Yet for all the visibility, the meaning of the (ever expanding) term "environment" is rarely explained in detail. This lack of clarity is important, as it leads to ambiguities about the boundaries of environments. What counts as environment in one field may be understood as organism, or body, in another. For example, the microbiome is simultaneously understood as a part of the organism (constituting together a developmental or evolutionary unit) and its environment (e.g. in faecal microbiota transplantation). Secondly, this lack of conceptual clarity can contribute to poor communication and impossibility of collaboration between fields. While historians and social scientists have begun to look seriously into the concept of the environment, they have mostly been content to acknowledge the multiplicity of meanings, without trying to sketch a genealogy, or classification of these "environments", including the epistemological and methodological challenges of each meaning.
Against this background, this special issue aims at integrating historical and social with philosophical studies on the environment. We invite contributions that address the following two topics and sets of questions:
1) Conceptual foundations of the environment in the biosciences: What are the historical conditions of past conceptions of the environment and what are consequences of present interpretations? Which disciplinary or experimental settings favour specific views of the environment and why? Examples of these views include: collective or individual, homogeneous or heterogeneous, invariant or spatio-temporally flexible, selective or constructed, passive or actively generative, experienced or "acted on", and external or internal environments. Furthermore, which recent trends in the bioscences, such as those towards organism-environment reciprocity, constructed environments, and individual environments, offer new perspectives on older philosophical debates, for example on externalism or the niche concept? Should the organism-environment relation be re-evaluated in the context of notions such as extended organism or holobiont? These and related questions may be addressed from a philosophical angle that analyzes the opportunities and challenges of different views on the environment in biological practice, ranging from experimental setups to explanatory standards. We explicitly welcome discussion topics that concern central past meanings of the term, such as mileux environnants (Lamarck), conditions of existence (Darwin), Umwelt (Uexkuell), constructed environment (Lewontin), and others.
2) Biomedical perspectives on the environment: Biomedicine is exceptionally rich with regard to the range of environments considered while simultaneously poor with explicit definitions. We invite contributions that will consider what is in what is out: what kinds of resources, disciplinary traditions and philosophical concepts are taken into account when constructing the notion of the environment. Essays may analyze biomedical understandings of notions such as neutral environment versus healthy and harmful, individual versus collective, or internal versus external. In the latter case, they may track the changing boundary between internal and external environments. As a next step essays may inquire about the challenges and consequences of each of these concepts: where does the responsibility for the success of preventative or therapeutic intervention reside? What kind of politics forms the foundations of these concepts, and what sort of policy-making strategies do they lead to? We welcome essays studying fields and disciplines known for their considerations of environment, such as tropical medicine, environmental epidemiology, and environmental epigenetics, but we also encourage contributions investigating other areas, taking comparative or longue durée approaches, and engaging with current debates, for example concerning microbiome research or personalized medicine.
Please submit an abstract of maximum 500 words until 15 January 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Any inquiries of conceptual or technical nature should be directed to the same addresses. We will invite full contributions by 1 March 2020 and the deadline for full papers will be 31 October 2020. Full papers will have to comply with the general Guide for Authors of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C ( https://www.elsevier.com/journals/studies-in-history-and-philosophy-of-science-part-c-studies-in-history-and-philosophy-of-biological-and-biomedical-sciences/1369-8486/guide-for-authors).
Dr Tatjana Buklijas
Centre for Science in Policy, Diplomacy and Society
University of Auckland, New Zealand
10 Grafton Road, Auckland 1010
Dr Jan Baedke
Department of Philosophy I
Ruhr University Bochum, Germany
D-44801 Bochum, Germany