Zachary Helwig Munroe 2017-09-13T11:13:36+00:00

Project Description


  • Philosophy of Science

  • History of Science

  • Philosophy of Physics



Doctoral Student;
Department of Philosophy, Western University

Zac is a doctoral student at UWO whose work lies at the intersection of Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Medicine, and Philosophy of Science (especially explanation and causation). His primary research interest at present concerns philosophical questions about the way animals are used as models of human systems in biomedical research.

My research program continues to explore philosophical questions related to the use of animals as models in biomedical research. Currently, I’m looking at the way animals are used to generate explanations about human systems and diseases. Among other things this involves examining the metaphysical commitments researchers make in utilizing animals, such as implicit or explicit causal and explanatory claims, and the nature of the relationship between animals and humans. I’m developing a pluralist, longitudinal explanatory framework that attempts to capture descriptively the scientific use of animal models, while also adding a normative component that aims to ground our explanatory aspirations in biological reality.

Existing literature generally tends to see animals as being causally analogous to humans, in virtue of our shared evolutionary past. However, the metaphysics underlying these claims is rarely explored, leading to significant epistemic problems when the models exhibit causally disanalogous behavior. It’s also obvious that animals are used as more than just a means for investigating putative causal relationships. To remedy this shortcoming I’m looking at various other ways that animals are used as models in the scientific literature, such as heuristically, functionally, descriptively, etc. Presently, I believe there is a way to (in some sense) unify these various positions by adopting the so-called “New Mechanist” approach to explanation that has steadily gained popularity in (e.g.) Philosophy of Biology.

Masters Thesis:

“The Emergence of Life(?)” Supervisor: Steven Weinstein (University of Waterloo).

Conference Presentations:

“Functional Analogical Models in Biomedical Research.” I.S.H.P.S.S.B, July 8th 2013, Montpellier, France.

“Animal Models and the Explanatory Life Cycle.” UWO Summer W.I.P.S., July 3rd 2013

“Making Sense of Contingency.” UWO PGS Colloquium, March 27 2013

Western University

Winter, 2012: Philosophy of Death (Instructor)

Fall 2010-Winter 2011: Introduction to Philosophy (Lead TA)

Fall 2009-Winter 2010: Introduction to Philosophy (TA)

University of Waterloo

Summer 2009: Business Ethics (TA)

Winter 2009: Critical Thinking (TA)

Fall 2008: Introduction to Philosophy (TA)