Understanding viruses: Philosophical investigations

Thomas Pradeu*, Gladys Kostyrka, John Dupré

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Viruses have been virtually absent from philosophy of biology. In this editorial introduction, we explain why we think viruses are philosophically important. We focus on six issues (the definition of viruses, the individuality and diachronic identity of a virus, the possibility to classify viruses into species, the question of whether viruses are living, the question of whether viruses are organisms, and finally the biological roles of viruses in ecology and evolution), and we show how they relate to classic questions of philosophy of biology and even general philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Early online date11 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • individuality
  • life
  • microbe
  • organism
  • species
  • virus


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