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Egenis · People

Dr. Pierre-Olivier Méthot

Research student - completed




Byrne House


I started my PhD project in philosophy at the University of Exeter in October 2007 after having completed an MA (mention excellent) and a BA in philosophy at the Université de Montréal (Québec, Canada). In my master thesis I studied the problem of biological individuality from the perspective of the extended phenotype and the extended organism. During my first year at Egenis I developed a cotutelle between the University of Exeter and the Institut d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences et des techniques (IHPST) at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. My project is funded by a four years doctoral scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and by Egenis.

I submitted my thesis titled "Historical Epistemology of the Concept of Virulence: Molecular, Ecological, and Evolutionary Perspectives on Emerging Infectious Diseases in the 19th and 20th Century" and my viva will take place in February.


Professor John Dupré and Dr Staffan Müller-Wille at Egenis, and Professor Jean Gayon at the IHPST in Paris.

Teaching experience

  • University of Exeter, 2007–2008 — Teaching Assistant for “Introduction to Philosophical Analysis”
  • Collège Jean-de-Brebeuf (Montréal, Canada), 2006–2007 — Lecturer for “Éthique et philosophie politique"
  • Université de Montréal (Québec, Canada), 2005–2007 — Lecturer for "Introduction à la bioéthique"


Journal Articles

Méthot, P-O., "From Concepts to Experimental Systems: Trends in Historical Epistemology." In: H. Schmidgen, P. Schöttler, J.-F. Braunstein (Eds.) History and Epistemology: From Bachelard and Canguilhem to Today's History of Science. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Preprint Series (forthcoming).

Méthot, P-O., "Theobald Smith (1859-1934) and the "Law of declining Virulence": Shifting Perspectives on the Evolution of Disease - 1880-1980." History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (forthcoming).

Méthot, P-O., "Research Traditions and Evolutionary Explanations in Medicine." Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (special issue in the philosophy of medicine), 32 (1), 2011, pp. 75-90.

Méthot, P-O., "French Epistemology Overseas: Analyzing the Influence of Georges Canguilhem in Québec." Humana-mente. Journal of Philosophical Studies, No. 9, 2009, pp. 39–58.

Book Chapter

Méthot, P-O., "Darwin et la médecine: Intérêt et limites des explications évolutionnaires en médecine." In: T. Heams, P. Huneman, G. Lecointre, M. Silberstein (Eds.), Les mondes darwiniens , 2009, chapter 28. Paris: Syllepse. [Revised and augmented, 2011].

Méthot, P-O.,"Darwin, Evolution, and Medicine: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives." In: T. Heams, P. Huneman, G. Lecointre, M. Silberstein (Eds.), Handbook of Evolutionary Thinking, Springer (forthcoming).

Méthot, P-O., Alizon, S. "Evolutionary Models of Virulence: Concepts, History, and Current Applications." In: G. Lambert, M. Silberstein, P. Huneman (Eds.), New Essays in the Philosophy of Medicine, Springer (forthcoming).

Méthot, P-O. "L'évolution des maladies et la dynamique historique de la pathocénose." In: J. Coste, B. Fantini, L. Lambrichs (Eds.), La pathocénose : nouvelles explorations conceptuelles et applications médico-historiques, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (forthcoming).

Reports and editorial

Rich, L.E., Ashby, M.A., Méthot, P-O. (Editorial) "Rethinking the Body and its Boundaries." Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Online first).

Méthot, P-O, MacLoed, M., Bauer, S., Gross, F., Nicoglou, A. "Meeting Disciplinary Boundaries: Towards a More Inclusive Philosophy of the Life ." Biological Theory, 5 (3), 2010, pp. 1-3.

Méthot, P-O, Nicholson, D.J. "What is HPS for- 28-29 June?" The Reasoner, Vol. 4, No. 8, 2010, pp. 123-4.

Book reviews

Grote, M., Méthot, P-O," La vie, l'évolution et l'histoire", Michel Morange, Metascience (Online first).


From English into French

David Magnus, "Le concept de maladie génétique." Vrin, Paris (forthcoming).

Randolph Nesse, "A propos de la difficulté de définir la maladie: une perspective darwinienne." Vrin, Paris (forthcoming).

From French into English

Jean Gayon, "Natural Selection, Regression, and Heredity in Darwinian and Post-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory." In Heredity Explored: Between Public Domain and Experimental Science, 1850-1930 (provisional title). Edited by S. Mueller-Wille, C. Brandt, and H.-J. Rheinberger (forthcoming, MIT press).

Selected presentations

"Health and disease in the light of evolution - or WHO needs Darwin?" World Health Organization, Geneva, 20 September 2011.

"Medicine, evolution and virulence: Linking concepts and practices in 20th century life sciences", Brocher Foundation, Geneva, 11 September 2011.

"Theobald Smith (1859-1934) and the "law of declining virulence": shifting perspectives on the evolution of disease - 1880-1980," Annual meeting of the British Society for the History of Science, Exeter, 14-17 July 2011.

"Virulence: a (purely) operational concept? historical and philosophical perspectives", 3rd bi-annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice, Exeter, 22-24 June 2011.

"Emerging diseases and the evolution of virulence", 6th meeting of the Consortium for the History and Philosophy of Biology, IHPST, Paris (Sorbonne), 3-4 June 2011.

"On the operational character of concepts in the life sciences: historical and philosophical perspectives", HPS history workshop, joint session (with Joeri Witteveen) on History and Philosophy of Biology: New Perspectives?, Cambridge University, 1 June 2011.

"On the interplay between functional and evolutionary explanations in the health sciences: lessons from the "Spanish" flu pandemic", Seminar in the history and philosophy of medicine, Bristol University, 16 March 2011.

"From concepts to experimental systems: trends in historical epistemology", History and Epistemology: From Bachelard and Canguilhem to Today's History of Science, organized by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, 9-11 December 2010.

"Shifting perspectives on the evolution of disease", First European Advanced Seminar in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences: Causation and Disease in the Postgenomic Era, Hermance, Switzerland, 6-11 September 2010.

"HPS and historical epistemology: a contrast", presented at the 5th Joint Workshop on Integrated History and Philosophy of Science "What is HPS for?", University of Exeter, June 28-29th, 2010.

"Qu'est-ce qu'une maladie génétique?" (with Catherine Dekeuwer), Concepts de santé et de maladie depuis G. Canguilhem (research seminar), Université Lyon 3, 28 April 2010.

"Research traditions and explanatory styles in evolutionary studies of medicine", Progress in Medicine Conference, University of Bristol, 13-15 April 2010.

"La médecine darwinienne: une nouvelle forme d'explication des maladies?", Concepts de santé et de maladie depuis G. Canguilhem (research seminar) Université Lyon 3, 10 March 2010.

"From (neo)Darwinian medicine to evolutionary medicine: analyzing the role of evolutionary explanations in a medical context", Philosophy of Medicine Rountable, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, 19-20 October 2009.

"What can Darwin teach us about medicine?", ESRC Genomics Network Conference, Cardiff City Hall, 7-9 October 2009.

"Why does medicine need Darwin?" A Commentary on "Darwin in the Clinic" by Dorothy Porter at the Darwin, Medicine and Humanities Symposium, University of Exeter, 18-19 September 2009.

"General summary" of the Workshop "Life of the Cell: Philosophy and History of Cell Research", Egenis, 24 April 2009.

"Comment penser les rapports entre la médecine et l'évolution? Une approche historique et épistémologique de la question", IHPST-Paris, 11 December 2008.

"Integrating evolution to medicine: An overview of the explanatory strategies", 8th Vienna International Summer University School in History and Philosophy of the Biomedical Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria, 8 July 2008.

“Organism, environment and the problem of normality”, University of Exeter postgraduate conference, 28 May 2008

“Classification, individuation and pluralism in biology and medicine”, Egenis seminar, University of Exeter, 5 February 2008.

Comment on Mohan Matthen’s talk entitled “Selection and Causation”, second Consortium for the History and Philosophy of Biology (Université de Montréal, University of Toronto, Duke University, Paris-1 Sorbonne), IHPST, Paris, 11 May 2007.

“What is a biological individual? Or, why 'organism' and 'individual' are not (always) synonyms”, 17e symposium of department of Biological Sciences at Université de Montréal, 25 January 2007 (in French).

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of the life sciences
  • History of science and medicine
  • Historical epistemology

Academic activities

  • Having obtained a scholarship from the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture (Québec), I will start a two-year postdoc at the Institut d'histoire de la médecine et de la santé at the Université de Genève (Switzerland) in January 2012.
  • At the third biennial conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (June 22-24, Exeter), I am organizing a session on "Operationalism in the Life Sciences". This session will include contributions from Mathias Grote (Berlin), Robert Meunier (Milan), Staffan Mueller-Wille (Exeter), and Uljana Feest (Berlin).
  • I was invited to give a paper at the international conference on History and Epistemology: From Bachelard and Canguilhem to Today's History of Science organized by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the Institut d'histoire et de philosophie des sciences et des techniques, Berlin, December 9-11, 2010.
  • Betwee August and November 2011 I was "visiting researcher" at the Brocher Foundation (Hermance) in Switzerland.
  • I participated in the First European Advanced Seminar in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences "Causation and Disease in the Postgenomic Era" held in Hermance from September 6-11.
  • In 2010 I was involved in a monthly research seminar on "Les concepts de santé et de maladie après G. Canguilhem" organized by Elodie Giroux (Lyon) and Mael Lemoine (Tours), which is part of a larger translation project in the philosophy of medicine (under contract with Vrin, Coll. Textes-clés, Paris).
  • With Dan Nicholson I co-organized a session for Egenis students at the 2008 postgraduate conference "New Issues in the Epistemology of the Life Sciences" at the University of Exeter held on 27-28 May.
  • In 2007, I also contributed to the revival of a reading group. Since then I have introduced a number of texts in the philosophy and history of biology and medicine.