Gunnar Babcock


Gunnar Babcock works in the philosophy of biology. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University at Albany and he held a postdoctoral position for two years in the Department of Biology at Duke University working on the project, "Increasing complexity: The first rule of evolution?" He is also a co-project leader on the upcoming project titled, "Agency, Purpose, and Field Theory" that is a continuation of his research on goal directed systems and teleological explanations in the sciences.



Education & Training

Postdoctoral Associate, Dept. of Biology, Duke University (2020-2022)

PhD, University at Albany, (2013-2020)

B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, (2004-2008)


Gunnar's research is primarily in the philosophy of biology. It focuses on topics like biological individuality, species, and both modern and historical accounts of teleology. He has published in both philosophical and biological journals such as the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Synthese and the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. He has also presented his work at venues including the Linnean Society of London and the Philosophy of Science Association, and he has written for Aeon Magazine. Currently, he collaborates with Daniel W. McShea (Duke University) to further develop a new approach to understanding goal directed systems that they call field theory. They have been awarded a grant by the John Templeton Foundation to fund a project called Purpose, Agency, and Field Theory,  which is a continuation of this work. Some of Gunnar's other research considers developments in synthetic biology, biological concepts like bio-indeficiency, and various areas of biotechnology to determine how these alter the metaphysical underpinnings of concepts like reproduction, species, and lineages. His broader philosophical interests extend to the history and philosophy of science, environmental ethics and ancient philosophy. 

Primary Research Focus
Philosophy of biology


While Gunnar specializes in the philosophy of biology, he's taught courses across a wide variety of philosophical topics. Some of his courses include Happiness, Environmental Ethics, Bioethics, and Plato on Eros, Poetry and Philosophy. The institutions where he's taught include Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Hartwick College, Marist College, the University at Albany, and the University of Alaska.

Office Hours

Mondays and Thursdays, 10:00-11:00am (and by appointment)

Current Courses

Great Ideas in Philosophy

Philosophy of Biology


Peer-reviewed Publications

Babcock, G., "Teleology and function in non-living nature", Synthese, 201, 122 (2023)

Babcock, G., McShea, D.W., “Resolving teleology’s false dilemma”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, (2022),

Babcock, G., “Are Synthetic Genomes Parts of a Genetic Lineage?”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 72:4, 995-1011, (2021),

Babcock, G., McShea, D.W., “An externalist teleology”, Synthese, 199: 8755-8780, (2021),

Babcock, G., “Asexual organisms, identity and vertical gene transfer”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 81:101265, (2020),

Book Reviews

Babcock G., “Review of Rethinking Evolution: The Revolution That’s Hiding in Plain Sight, by Gene Levinson”, The Quarterly Review of Biology, 97:1, 52-3, (2022),

Public Philosophy

“The split-body problem”, Aeon Magazine,


View All Scopus Publications

Back to top