From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sat May 24 1997 - 19:54:52 BST

> Date: Fri, 23 May 97 09:22:18 UT
> From: "Jane Korbey" <>
> Of all the sociobiological papers you recommended we read I found
> Vaulting Ambition the most difficult. I could not understand the point
> Philip Kitcher was trying to make..........then at some late hour last
> night I realised that he is pointing out that although sociobiology can
> offer plausible explanations for behaviour, he can offer equally
> plausible explanations too.

Right. He is trying to sort out which sociobiological explanations
are compelling and which are no better than anyone's guess.

> My problem had been in trying to see what his stance was in the debate,
> I originally thought he had some opposing stance which I could not
> identify in some strong form. Now I understand him to be
> saying.........."Look I can offer some just-so-stories too. If I can do
> this then where is the strength in Wilson's arguements?" I hope I have
> arrived at the correct destination on this journey into philosophy.

That's right. But he does make a distinction between "pop" sociobiology
(which is the "just-so" kind) and more rigorous sociobiology, of which
he also gives examples.

> I have a question...........
> In the preface of Vaulting Ambition Philip Kitcher thanks Elliot Sober
> for his '...careful reading and line by line comments (which) have
> enhanced my discussion of almost every issue'.
> Nine years later Sober then goes on to write an article with
> Wilson............I don't quite understand what part Sober plays in all this.
> Do you?

It's not the name Wilson: The sociobiologist that Kitcher is criticising
is E.O. Wilson. The one who co-authored the article With Sober is
D. S. Wilson!

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