Project Description

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Derek Oswick


  • Philosophy of biology

  • Neurofeminism & neuroscience

  • Science & values



Doctoral Student;
Department of Philosophy, Western University

Derek graduated from Huron University College with an Honours Spec in Philosophy, a minor in Social Justice & Peace Studies, and a Certificate of Practical Spanish. He then completed his M.A at Western, with a project that looked at the feasibility constraint on morality and the way we take psychological data to inform what counts as feasible moral duties. His PhD dissertation is on organism development, what development consists in, and dissolving the nature/nurture framework that often still plagues our understanding of development.

Despite working primarily in philosophy of biology, Derek also has many side interests, such as the role of values in science, feminist epistemology, ‘neurofeminism’, metaphysics of gender and race, synthetic biology, and ecology.

My current research interests pertain to understanding development in biology. My dissertation examines the way in which contemporary conceptions of development tacitly draw on the nature/nurture framework. I begin by looking at various types of interactions (causal, statistical, ‘irreducible’, etc), and use this to discuss genetic interaction. It becomes clear that many contemporary understandings of development treats development as the addition of distinct sources: ie genetic source + environmental source, as if the two were wholly separable. Treating genes and environment as distinct sources of form is just to recreate the pitfalls of the nature/nurture framework. Instead, I argue that genes and environment are coupled parts of a larger developmental system, and their interactions are irreducible since the value of each part depends on the values of the other parts in the coupled equation. Phenotypes do not pre-exist this coupling, and it is only in the context of these interactions that phenotypic traits are (contingently) constructed in ontogeny. By treating this developmental system as a coupled system, we get a well-understood sense of how development can be construed as irreducible interaction, and this approach allows us to shed the spectre of preformationism. My approach also draws on recent postgenomic research that is moving towards characterizing the genome as reactive, rather than proactive.

MA Thesis

‘Born This Way’: Evidential Roles in the Divides Between Morality and Psychology. Western University. 2014. (Supervisor: Dr. Richard Vernon)

Conference Presentations

“Fairness in the Assimilation/Queerness dialogue; Rawls for a Queer State”. 3rd Global Conference (Inter-Disciplinary.Net publications): On Sex and the State. In Montreal, Canada.

1. Fall/Winter 2013-2014, Philosophy of Law, UWO (Grader & Guest Lecturer)

2. Critical Thinking (Phil 1200; TA position) Dr. C. Viger, 2015-2016

  • nominated for Graduate Student Teaching Award for Phil 1200

3. Introduction to Sexuality Studies (WSFR 1021F; TA position) Dr C. Roulston, Fall 2016

  • nominated for Graduate Student Teaching Award for WS 1021

4. Gender, Justice, Change (WSFR 1022G; TA position) Dr B. Baruah, Spring 2018

  • nominated for Graduate Student Teaching Award for WS 1022

5. Ethics, Law & Politics (Phil 1040G; TA position) Dr M. Milde, Spring 2019

  • nominated for Graduate Student Teaching Award for Phil 1040G