The Economy of Nature: The Structure of Evolution in Linnaeus, Darwin, and Toward the Extended Synthesis

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Pence, Charles H.; Swaim, Daniel G.
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We argue that the economy of nature constitutes an invocation of structure in the biological sciences, one largely missed by philosophers of biology despite the turn in recent years toward structural explanations throughout the philosophy of science. We trace a portion of the history of this concept, beginning with the theologically and economically grounded work of Linnaeus, moving through Darwin’s adaptation of the economy of nature, its reconceptualization in genetic terms during the Modern Synthesis, and concluding with the prospects for its reunion with broader ecological themes in a potential, future Extended Synthesis. This structural element has thus been preserved across changes between theories radically different in their ontological, methodological and philosophical commitments, and offers us an exciting focal point for investigating the development of biological theory over the last three centuries.