My work broadly concerns the epistemology of the biological sciences. What do biologists know? How is this knowledge organized? How is it justified? How does it change over time? I am particularly interested in issues of conceptual structure and conceptual change, especially in the context of evolutionary theory. Many central biological concepts (e.g., 'homology'; 'species'; 'gene') have multiple co-existing uses with complex relationships between them. I study the nature of these relationships and the historical processes that produce them in order to understand why biological knowledge should come in such complex packages. My current research in this area centers on the concept 'homology'.
I also have research interests in the philosophy of evolutionary theory, especially in figuring out how the many disparate explanatory tools that make up the theory, which derive from many different subdisciplines, interact with each other in our evolutionary explanations. In this area, I have primarily focused on tensions that emerge when trying to integrate developmental genetics into evolutionary theory. I have also worked on the nature of justification in the biological sciences, defending a view that minimizes the importance of inference to the best explanation in favor of the vera causa ideal (especially in forms descending from Herschel's work). Finally, I have an interest in the history of systematics (intersecting with my work on 'homology'), especially the work of William Sharp Macleay, an obscure but fascinating entomologist from the early 19th century.
Papers reflecting all of these projects can be found below.
Novick, Aaron. 2019. "Cuvierian Functionalism." Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology. [PDF] [link]
Novick, Aaron. 2018. “The Fine Structure of ‘Homology’.” Biology and Philosophy 33:6. doi: 10.1007/s10539-018-9617-3 [PDF] [link]
Novick, Aaron and Raphael Scholl. 2018. "Presume it Not: True Causes in the Search for the Basis of Heredity." The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. doi: 10.1093/bjps/axy001 [PDF] [link]
Novick, Aaron. 2018. "A reappraisal of Charles Darwin's engagement with the work of William Sharp Macleay." Journal of the History of Biology. doi: 10.1007/s10739-018-9541-z [PDF] [link]
Novick, Aaron. 2017. “Metaphysics and the Vera Causa Ideal: The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” Erkenntnis 82 (5):1161-1176. doi: 10.1007/s10670-016-9863-1 [PDF] [link]
Novick, Aaron. 2016. “On the origins of the quinarian system of classification.” Journal of the History of Biology 49 (1):95-133. doi: 10.1007/s10739-015-9419-2 [PDF] [link]
Lehtinen, Richard. M., Travis L. Calkins, Aaron M. Novick, and Jessica L. McQuigg. 2016. “Re-assessing the conservation status of an island endemic frog.” Journal of Herpetology 50 (2):249-255. doi: 10.1670/14-161 [link]