Philosophical Anthropology, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Technology, Ethics


After completing a PhD at Temple University in 2013, Phillip Honenberger held postdoctoral appointments at the Consortium for HSTM in Philadelphia, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pittsburgh. He is pleased to return to Temple as an instructional Assistant Professor.

Honenberger’s main research areas are philosophy of biology and the history of European philosophy since 1900. He is primarily interested in two sorts of questions: (1) How has biological science or its interpretation informed influential philosophical positions and vice versa – for instance, regarding the order of nature; the material composition of culture; relations between ontological categories such as life, matter, and mind; and the structure, constraints, and capacities of human reasoning, action, and society? And (2) What combination of biological and philosophical commitments on such topics is ultimately most defensible?

In answer to the first question, he’s produced a series of case studies. These include a comparative study of philosophers’ Darwin interpretations (2018), a review of debates about “essentialism” and “typology” in biology (2015), and studies of the biophilosophical tradition known as “philosophical anthropology” (e.g. Helmuth Plessner, Arnold Gehlen, Marjorie Grene) (2015).

In answer to the second question, he’s defended a position he calls “excentric naturalism.” This can be summarized as the view that humans are organisms shaped by evolutionary-historical processes in an especially plastic direction, as mediated by especially plastic social and artifactual conditions. (The term “excentric” is borrowed from Helmuth Plessner and Marjorie Grene.) This excentricity of humans is exhibited above all in their sociality, reflectivity, technicity, and capacity for creative reversal and upheaval, and has profound consequences for how we think about their knowledge and valuation. A defensible interpretation of these features and their sources, in light of contemporary biology, is the theme of a recent article (Biology and Philosophy, forthcoming) and a book manuscript (under review). 

Selected Publications

  • “Natural Artificiality, Niche Construction, and the Content-Open Mediation of Human Behavior,” Biology & Philosophy, forthcoming.
  • “Darwin Among the Philosophers: Hull and Ruse on Darwin, Herschel, and Whewell,” HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2) (2018): 278-309.
  • “Grene and Hull on Types and Typological Thinking in Biology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 50 (2015): 13-25.
  • (ed.), Naturalism and Philosophical Anthropology: Nature, Life, and the Human between Transcendental and Empirical Perspectives. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.
  • Review of Maria Kronfelder, What’s Left of Human Nature?: A Post-Essentialist, Pluralist, and Interactive Account of a Contested Concept (MIT Press, 2018), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews ( )

Courses Taught

  • Honors Ethics in Medicine
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Introduction to Ethical Theory
  • Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of the Human