Population thinking as trope nominalism

Synthese 177 (1):91 - 109 (2010)
The concept of population thinking was introduced by Ernst Mayr as the right way of thinking about the biological domain, but it is difficult to find an interpretation of this notion that is both unproblematic and does the theoretical work it was intended to do. I argue that, properly conceived, Mayr’s population thinking is a version of trope nominalism: the view that biological property-types do not exist or at least they play no explanatory role. Further, although population thinking has been traditionally used to argue against essentialism about biological kinds, recently it has been suggested that it may be consistent with at least some forms of essentialism—ones that construe essential properties as relational. I argue that if population thinking is a version of trope nominalism, then, as Mayr originally claimed, it rules out any version of essentialism about biological kinds.
Keywords Natural selection  Tropes  Trope nominalism  Population thinking  Ernst Mayr
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DOI 10.2307/40985621
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Phillip Honenberger (2015). Grene and Hull on Types and Typological Thinking in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 50:13-25.

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