Postdoc 1 IDEM Project

Postdoctoral position in Philosophy of Biology

Thomas Pradeu’s ERC Starting Grant

Postdoc theme: “Identity, internalism and externalism in the biological sciences”


The University of Bordeaux and the CNRS seek candidates for a two-year postdoctoral position in Philosophy of Biology, in the context of Thomas Pradeu’s ERC Starting Grant project (2015-2020 called “Immunity, Development and the Microbiota: Understanding the Continuous Construction of Biological Identity” (IDEM).


Postdoc theme: “Identity, internalism and externalism in the biological sciences”

Location: University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.

Employer: CNRS, Bordeaux, France.

Language: English.

Duration: One year, renewable for one more year. (The funding is for two years, and the "normal" expected duration will therefore be of two years).

Start date: September 1st, 2015, or October 1st, 2015.

Requirements: PhD in Philosophy of Biology, or Philosophy of Science more generally, or Metaphysics, with a strong interest in science.

Application deadline: May 15, 2015.

Contact: Thomas Pradeu,


Description of project:

The postdoc project “Identity, internalism and externalism in the biological sciences” aims at elucidating the historical and philosophical roots of the on-going debate between “internalism” and “externalism” in the biological sciences (Godfrey-Smith 1996), by putting it into the context of philosophical analyses on the construction of identity through time.

It will thus address the following questions:

  • How has diachronic identity been conceived in philosophy? How have the respective roles of “internal” and “external” factors in an ever-changing identity through time been conceived, in particular in the founding debate between “empiricism” and “rationalism” (especially in the traditions initiated by Locke and Leibniz)? In addition, can recent debates on endurance vs. perdurance (Lewis 1986), four-dimensionalism (Sider 2001) or the thing-process distinction (Dupré 2012) be useful to better characterize biological identity?
  • What is the nature of the current debate over internalism and externalism in the biological sciences? In particular, many (e.g., Lewontin 2000; Oyama 2000; Minelli 2003; Robert 2004) suggest that today’s developmental biology is still strongly internalist: what do they exactly mean? Is this claim true? Has not the relative decline of the idea of a “genetic program” in the last twenty years led to a softening of internalism? Many so-called “interactionist” claims have recently been suggested; do they constitute legitimate alternatives to traditional internalism/externalism debates, or, as Oyama (2000) has claimed, do they simply hide the crux of the problem thanks to an all-too-easy label?
  • These investigations about identity in philosophy and the internalism/externalism debate in the life sciences will then be confronted with the case study that makes the specificity of the IDEM project, through the question: How can research on the role of the microbiota in the construction of the organism impact the internalism-externalism debate? An important issue will be to determine whether the “ecological-developmental perspective” (Gilbert and Epel 2009) in biology constitutes a new framework likely to deeply re-orient the debate, or rather a simple resurgence of a form of “externalism”.



Research environment

  • IDEM research is done mainly at the University of Bordeaux, France, and more precisely in the Immunology Lab, which is part of the College of Health Sciences. Though IDEM's focus is first and foremost on the domain of philosophy of biology, it will benefit greatly from its direct environment, which is one of the most important communities of biologists and medical doctors in France.
  • As a whole, Thomas Pradeu’s team over the next five years will be constituted of 5 postdocs and 2 PhD students.
  • The recruited postdoc will have excellent working conditions: a desk and all office facilities, online access to journals, the possibility to be involved in lab experiments, funds to participate in international conferences and workshops, etc.


Practical activities and requirements

  • The recruited postdoc will have a PhD in Philosophy of Biology, or Philosophy of Science more generally, or Metaphysics, with a strong interest in science.
  • The recruited postdoc will be expected to participate in seminars, reading groups, and other aspects of the research life.
  • The recruited postdoc will be expected to publish several papers, including papers written in collaboration with scientists (at least 2 co-authored papers with scientists and/or philosophers, and 2 single-authored papers).
  • Residency in Bordeaux is mandatory
  • Everyday presence in the lab is mandatory.
  • The net salary will be of approximately €2,100 per month.
  • IDEM will be conducted in English. Fluency in French is therefore not mandatory.


Applications (in English) should include:

  • A cover letter;
  • A CV;
  • A list of publications;
  • A sample of written work of up to 10,000 words;
  • A description of planned research activity of 1,000-1,500 words.

Applications, in one PDF document, will be sent by email to:, before May 15, 2015. Hard copy applications are not accepted.

Additionally, two confidential letters of reference should be sent to the same address from the referees directly.

The CNRS is an equal opportunities employer and encourages women to apply for positions.