David Hull (philosopher)

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David Hull
Born15 June 1935
Died11 August 2010
EducationIllinois Wesleyan University (BS) Indiana University (PhD)
PartnerRichard "Dick" Wellman
Notable ideas
Philosophy of Biology, Species-As-Individuals, Evolutionary Interactors

David Lee Hull (15 June 1935 – 11 August 2010)[1] was an American philosopher who was most notable for founding the field philosophy of biology.[2] Additionally, Hull is recognized within evolutionary culture studies as contributing heavily in early discussions of the conceptualization of memetics.[3][4] In addition to his academic prominence, he was well known as a gay man who fought for the rights of other gay and lesbian philosophers.[5] Hull was partnered with Richard "Dick" Wellman, a Chicago school teacher, until Wellman's passing during the drafting of Science as Process.[6]

Education and career[edit]

Hull initially got a Bachelors in Biology at Illinois Wesleyan University.[6] He then became one of the first graduates of the History and Philosophy of Science department at Indiana University (IU). After earning his PhD from IU, he taught at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee for 20 years before moving to Northwestern, where he taught for another 20 years. Hull was a former president of the Philosophy of Science Association, the ISHPSSB, and the Society for Systematic Biology. He was particularly well known for his argument that species are not sets or collections but rather spatially and temporally extended individuals (also called the individuality thesis or "species-as-individuals" thesis).

He is considered to have founded and systematically developed the area of philosophy of biology as it is understood in contemporary philosophy. Hull proposed an elaborate discussion of science as an evolutionary process in his 1988 book, which also offered a historical account of the "taxonomy wars" of the 1960s and 1970s between three competing schools of taxonomy: phenetics, evolutionary systematics, and cladistics. In Hull's view, science evolves like organisms and populations do, with a demic population structure, subject to selection for ideas based on "conceptual inclusive credit." Either novelty or citation of work gives credit, and the professional careers of scientists share in credit by using successful research. This is a "hidden hand" account of scientific progress.

Additionally, Hull regularly contributed to a variety of studies of evolutionary culture. He contributed to philosophical and empirical accounts of the evolution of science and evolutionary epistemology. While most of his work is in metaphysics and epistemology of evolution and biology, some of his work is closely related to what has since been called Bibliometrics, Scientometrics, or Science of Science. He forwarded citation analysis to develop an account of the evolutionary survival of scientific ideas[7] which has a direct relationship to what has been called Knowledge Memes or Science Memes.[8]

He also contributed to evolutionary culture theory more broadly by contributing to initial discussions surrounding the generalization of Richard Dawkins' evolutionary vehicles in memetics research. In relation to Richard Dawkins' theory of replicators, Hull introduced the notion of interactors.[9][10]

He was Dressler Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Northwestern University.[11]


  • Hull, D. L. (1964) Consistency and monophyly. Syst. Zool. 13:1-11.
  • Hull, D. L. (1965) The effect of essentialism on taxonomy: two thousand years of stasis. Br. J. Philos. Sci. 15: 314-326; 16: 1-18.
  • Hull, D. L. (1966) Phylogenetic numericlature. Syst. Zool. 15:14-17.
  • Hull, D. L. (1967) Certainty and circularity in evolutionary taxonomy. Evolution 21:174-189.
  • Hull, D. L. (1968) The operational imperative—sense and nonsense in operationalism. Syst. Zool. 17:438-457.
  • Hull, D. L. (1969) Morphospecies and biospecies: a reply to Ruse. Br. J. Philos. Sci. 20:280-282.
  • Hull, D. L. (1970) Contemporary systematic philosophies. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1:19-54.
  • Hull, D. L. (1973) Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; reprinted by the University of Chicago Press, 1983, ISBN 9780226360461.
  • Hull, D. L. (1974) Philosophy of Biological Science. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, ISBN 9780136636090; translated into Portuguese (1975), Japanese (1994).
  • Hull, D. L. (1976) Are species really individuals? Syst. Zool. 25:174-191.
  • Hull, D. L. (1978) A matter of individuality. Philos. Sci. 45:335-360.
  • Hull, D. L. (1978) The principles of biological classification: the use and abuse of philosophy. Vol. 2, pp. 130–153. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association.
  • Hull, D. L. (1979) The limits of cladism. Syst. Zool. 28:416-440.
  • Hull, D. L. (1980) Individuality and selection. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 11:311-332.
  • Hull, D. L. (1981) Kitts and Kitts and Caplan on species. Philos. Sci. 48:141-152.
  • Hull, D. L. (1981) Metaphysics and common usage. Behav. Brain Sci. 4:290-291.
  • Hull, D. L. (1983) Karl Popper and Plato's metaphor. pp. 177–189 in N. I. Platnick, and V. A. Funk, eds. Advances in Cladistics, Vol. 2 Columbia University Press, New York.
  • Hull, D. L. (1983) Thirty-one years of Systematic Zoology. Syst. Zool. 32:315-342.
  • Hull, D. L. (1984) Cladistic theory: hypotheses that blur and grow. pp. 5–23 in T. Duncan, and T. F. Stuessy, eds. Cladistics: perspectives on the reconstruction of evolutionary history. Columbia University Press, New York.
  • Hull, D. L. 1984. Can Kripke alone save essentialism? A reply to Kitts. Syst. Zool. 33:110-112.
  • Hull, D. L. (1988) Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226360515.
  • Hull, D. L. (1989) The Metaphysics of Evolution. Stony Brook NY: State University of New York Press, ISBN 9780791402122.
  • Hull, D. L. (1992) "Review of The Scientific Attitude" Current Comments 15 (September 28): 149–154.
  • Hull, D. L. (1997) The ideal species concept—and why we can't get it. pp. 357–380 in M. F. Claridge, H. A. Dawah, and M. R. Wilson, eds. Species: the units of biodiversity. Chapman & Hall, London.
  • Hull, D. L. (1999) The use and abuse of Sir Karl Popper. Biol. & Philos. 14:481-504.
  • Hull, D. L. (1999) "Evolutionists red in tooth and claw" Nature, 398 (April): 385.
  • Hull, D. L. (2000) "Activism, scientists and sociobiology" Nature 407 (6805): 673–674
  • Hull, D. L. (2001) "Replicators and interactors" In his Science and Selection. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 13–32.
  • Hull, D. L. (2001) The role of theories in biological systematics. Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 32:221-238.
  • Hull, D. L. (2002) Words and words about species. Evolution 56:426-428.
  • Hull, D. L. (2002a) "A career in the glare of public acclaim" Bioscience 52 (September): 837–841.
  • Hull, D. L. (2002b) "Explanatory styles in science" American Scientist, September.
  • Hull, D. L., R. Langman and S. Glenn (2001) "A general account of selection: biology, immunology and behavior" Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (3): 511–528.
  • Hull, D. L. and M. Ruse, eds., (1998) The Philosophy of Biology Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780198752127.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wisniewski, Mary (August 12, 2010). "DAVID L. HULL 1935-2010: Top philosopher of science backed gay, lesbian rights". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on August 16, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  2. ^ Ramirez, Margaret (23 August 2010). "Northwestern professor David L. Hull helped found philosophy of biology". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  3. ^ Hull, D. L. (1982). The naked meme. In H. C. Plotkin (Ed.), Learning, development and culture: Essays in evolutionary epistemology (pp. 273–327).
  4. ^ Hull, David L. (2001-01-04), "Taking memetics seriously: Memetics will be what we make it", Darwinizing CultureThe Status of Memetics as a Science, Oxford University Press, pp. 43–67, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192632449.003.0003, ISBN 978-0-19-263244-9, retrieved 2022-12-18
  5. ^ Overmann, R.J. (2000). "David Hull, Hod carrier." Biology and Philosophy 15: 311—320.
  6. ^ a b Ruse, Michael (November 2010). "David Hull: a memoir". Biology & Philosophy. 25 (5): 739–747. doi:10.1007/s10539-010-9236-0. ISSN 0169-3867. S2CID 84131750.
  7. ^ Hull, David L.; Tessner, Peter D.; Diamond, Arthur M. (1978-11-17). "Planck's Principle: Do younger scientists accept new scientific ideas with greater alacrity than older scientists?". Science. 202 (4369): 717–723. doi:10.1126/science.202.4369.717. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17807228. S2CID 40962458.
  8. ^ Kuhn, Tobias; Perc, Matjaž; Helbing, Dirk (2014-11-21). "Inheritance Patterns in Citation Networks Reveal Scientific Memes". Physical Review X. 4 (4): 041036. doi:10.1103/PhysRevX.4.041036. ISSN 2160-3308. S2CID 14810454.
  9. ^ L., Hull, David (1989). The metaphysics of evolution. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0211-8. OCLC 19554701.
  10. ^ L., Hull, David (2001). Science and selection : essays on biological evolution and the philosophy of science. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64339-2. OCLC 876723188.
  11. ^ Fellman, Megan. "David L. Hull, Philosopher of Science, Dies". News Center. NoNorthwestern University. Retrieved 3 December 2020.

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