Taxonomy and philosophy of names

Biology and Philosophy 13 (2):233-244 (1998)
Although naming biological clades is a major activity in taxonomy, little attention has been paid to what these names actually refer to. In philosophy, definite descriptions have long been considered equivalent to the meaning of names and biological taxonomy is a scientific application of these ideas. One problem with definite descriptions as the meanings of names is that the name will refer to whatever fits the description rather than the intended individual (clade). Recent proposals for explicit phylogenetic definitions of clade names suffer from similar problems and we argue that clade names cannot be defined since they lack intension. Furthermore we stress the importance of tree-thinking for phylogenetic reference to work properly.
Keywords reference  meaning  individual  class  definition  clade  evolution  phylogeny  phylogenetic taxonomy  systematics  tree-thinking  cladistics  intention  extension
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DOI 10.1023/A:1006583910214
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