Monophyly, paraphyly, and natural kinds

Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):465-487 (2005)
Abstract
A long-standing debate has dominated systematic biology and the ontological commitments made by its theories. The debate has contrasted individuals and the part – whole relationship with classes and the membership relation. This essay proposes to conceptualize the hierarchy of higher taxa is terms of a hierarchy of homeostatic property cluster natural kinds (biological species remain largely excluded from the present discussion). The reference of natural kind terms that apply to supraspecific taxa is initially fixed descriptively; the extension of those natural kind terms is subsequently established by empirical investigation. In that sense, classification precedes generalization, and description provides guidance to empirical investigation. The reconstruction of a hierarchy of (homeostatic property cluster) natural kinds is discussed in the light of cladistic methods of phylogeny reconstruction.
Keywords Classes  Individuals  Monophyly  Natural kinds  Paraphyly
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