Denis  Walsh



Professor and Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Biology


St. George,

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Evolutionary biology deploys three distinct modes of explanation: causal, statistical and teleological. My research investigates the nature and relation of these kinds of explanation in evolutionary biology. It pursues twin objectives: (i) an understanding of the structure of evolutionary theory and (ii) an understanding of the phenomenon of scientific explanation in general.

Over the last couple of years I have been engaged in a defence of the so-called ‘statistical interpretation’ of the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution. It claims that our post-Darwinian theory of natural selection explains evolutionary change by citing statistical properties of populations and not the causes of change.

Another area of recent research involves the role of development, and particularly the place of the organism, in evolutionary biology. Related to this, I am working towards a naturalized account of teleological explanation in biology, and rationalizing explanation in folk psychology, that draws upon recent research in complex systems dynamics.

Research Interests:

Philosophy of Science


  • 2016. Walsh, D.M. Organisms, Agency, and Evolution. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2014. Walsh, D.M. “Function and teleology.” In Thompson, R. Paul and Denis M. Walsh (2014) Evolutionary Biology: Conceptual, Ethical and Religious Issues. Cambridge University Press. pp. 193-216.
  • 2014. Walsh D.M. “Adaptation and the Affordance Landscape.” In Pearce. T., Berger, G. and Desjardins. E. (eds). Entangled Life: Organism and environment in the Biological and social Sciences. Dordrecht: Springer pp. 213-236 (CD).
  • 2012. Walsh, D.M. “Situated Adaptationism.” In The Environment. Topics in Contemporary Philosophy Vol 9. Campbell, J.K., M. O’Rourke and M. M Slater (eds.), Contemporary Issues in MIT Press 89-116.
  • 2013. Walsh, D.M. Descriptions and Models: Some responses to Abrams Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science and the Biomedical Sciences 44: 302-308.
  • 2013. Walsh, D.M. “The Negotiated Organism: Inheritance, Development and the Method of Difference” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 14 Jun 2013. DOI: 10.1111/bij
  • 2010. Walsh, D.M. “Not A Sure Thing,” Philosophy of Science 77: 147-171.


91 Charles Street West, Victoria College (room 316A), Toronto, ON M5S 1K7

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Jackman Humanities Building (room 538), 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8