The Generalized Theory of Evolution



University of Duesseldorf



Short Information

This is a repository of lectures, slides, and photos of the conference on The Generalized Theory of Evolution held from January 31 — February 3, 2018, at the University of Duesseldorf by the Duesseldorf Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (DCLPS).



We recognize that philosophical practice requires an inclusive philosophical community. Conference accessibility is a necessary condition for good philosophical work. It is also a matter of justice within the organization and the profession.

We aimed to be an inclusive conference. For this purpose we invited equally many female as male philosophers for becoming a keynote speaker. As it turned out, we still ended up with a misrepresentation of female keynote speakers compared to male keynote speakers. We did our best to get more balancing within the contributed slots. Given equal qualification, preference was given to submissions of female candidates.

We also did our best, within our budgetary constraints, to help with childcare if needed and to lower the barrier of participation for philosophers with disabilities.


Aims & Scope

For several decades now, experts in several fields of the science of human nature, society and culture have been using evolutionary models to explain phenomena specific to their domains. This led to the prominent idea, that the historical development of human culture in all or many of its facets ought to be described as a Darwinian process that is not based on genes but still driven by the principles of variation, selection and reproduction. At the beginning of the 21st century, a generalized theory of evolution seems to appear as an interdisciplinary theoretical structure finding its place between likewise interdisciplinary frameworks such as system theory or action theory. Subdisciplines like evolutionary psychology, evolutionary game theory, evolutionary epistemology and the theory of a cultural evolution in general seem to provide a set of models and explanatory tools that ultimately can be seen as varieties of one and the same basic theoretical structure: a generalized theory of evolution.

The generalization of the theory of evolution has not only had emphatic supporters, but has also been sharply critizised. In either case, various interesting questions can be raised within the framework. Is a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution a proper candidate to synthesize the social sciences? What is the surplus value of evolutionary explanations? More specifically, e.g., can language, meaning and content be explained in terms of evolutionary signaling games of coordination? Which facets of biological evolutionary systems can be applied to cultural evolutionary systems and where do they differ in relevant aspects? For example, are there any, and if, what is the methodological and ontological status of replicators in the cultural realm?

The conference aimed to gather answers to some of these frequently raised questions and explored recent attempts to move beyond mere qualitative theorizing in the domain of generalized evolutionary systems. By bringing together researchers with a common interest but with different backgrounds and toolboxes, we inspired interdisciplinary discussions and new collaborations.


Keynote Speakers

  • Daniel Dennett (Tufts University)
  • Eva Jablonka (Tel Aviv University)
  • Ruth Mace (University College London)
  • Alex Mesoudi (University of Exeter)
  • Thomas Reydon (University of Hannover)
  • Gerhard Schurz (University of Duesseldorf)
  • Brian Skyrms (University of California, Irvine)

Sponsors & Supporters