Revisiting three decades of Biology and Philosophy: a computational topic‑modeling perspective

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Though only established as a discipline since the 1970s, philosophy of biology has already triggered investigations about its own history. When it comes to assessing the road since travelled—the research questions that have been pursued—manuals and ontologies also offer specific viewpoints, highlighting dedicated domains of inquiry and select work. In this article, we propose to approach the history of the philosophy of biology with a complementary data-driven perspective that makes use of statistical algorithms applied to the complete full-text corpus of one major journal of the field—Biology and Philosophy—from its launch in 1986 up until 2017. By running text-mining and topic-modeling algorithms, we identified 67 key research topics that span across these 32 years. We also investigated the evolution of these topics over time and their fluctuating significance in the journal articles. Our results concur with known episodes or traits of the discipline—for instance, the significance of evolution-related topics or the decrease of articles with a marked historical dimension—but also highlight a diversity of topics that is much richer than what is usually acknowledged.

This content has been updated on 20 February 2020 at 15 h 59 min.