“Without an understanding of microbes, there can only be a limited understanding of life. Whether philosophers want to understand evolution, development, immunology, or even cognition, microbiological knowledge will clarify and deepen understandings of the processes in even the most ‘complex’ organism.”
Those who are familiar with my writings (judging by my followers and recommends that is a very limited few) know that I have two main passions, micro/molecular biology and philosophy. It should come as no surprise then that my heart literally skipped a beat when I came across Maureen A. O’Malley’s 2014 book Philosophy of Microbiology while stumbling across the interwebs on a recent afternoon. How I missed its publication at the time shall ever remain a mystery but I am glad that I did eventually happen on it.
There is so much I could talk about in these pages and no doubt I will in later posts but I wanted to start with a quote from very early in the book that really caught my eye. Again those who have read almost anything I have written on a philosophical topic will know that I exalt one western philosopher above all others, Ludwig Wittgenstein. While know mostly for his contributions to analytic philosophy, logic, and the philosophy of language LW had a wide ranging intellect and expounded at length on almost all topics of interest to a philosopher. One area in which his writings are most profound is in describing the purpose of philosophy itself. For Witt the main goal of philosophical activity should be something like clarification as it is used in the quote at beginning if this piece. He wants philosophy to help us deepen our understanding of the things we already understand but perhaps imperfectly. Again the alignment between what LW believes to be the ideal aim for practice of philosophy aligns exactly with what O’Malley posits as the role of philosophy of microbiology vis a vis philosophy of biology. Cool how things worked out that way.