Graduate studies at Western
Philosophy of Science 47 (3):350-383 (1980)
|Abstract||Ernst Mayr has argued that Darwinian theory discredited essentialist modes of thought and replaced them with what he has called "population thinking". In this paper, I characterize essentialism as embodying a certain conception of how variation in nature is to be explained, and show how this conception was undermined by evolutionary theory. The Darwinian doctrine of evolutionary gradualism makes it impossible to say exactly where one species ends and another begins; such line-drawing problems are often taken to be the decisive reason for thinking that essentialism is untenable. However, according to the view of essentialism I suggest, this familiar objection is not fatal to essentialism. It is rather the essentialist's use of what I call the natural state model for explaining variation which clashes with evolutionary theory. This model implemented the essentialist's requirement that properties of populations be defined in terms of properties of member organisms. Requiring such constituent definitions is reductionistic in spirit; additionally, evolutionary theory shows that such definitions are not available, and, moreover, that they are not needed to legitimize population-level concepts. Population thinking involves the thesis that population concepts may be legitimized by showing their connections with each other, even when they are not reducible to concepts applying at lower levels of organization. In the paper, I develop these points by describing Aristotle's ideas on the origins of biological variation; they are a classic formulation of the natural state model. I also describe how the development of statistical ideas in the 19th century involved an abandoning of the natural state model|
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
|Through your library||Configure|
Similar books and articles
Todd Buras (2006). Counterpart Theory, Natural Properties, and Essentialism. Journal of Philosophy 103 (1):27-42.
Michael Devitt (2008). Resurrecting Biological Essentialism. Philosophy of Science 75 (3):344-382.
Barbara L. Horan (1994). The Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory. Philosophy of Science 61 (1):76-95.
Samir Okasha (2002). Darwinian Metaphysics: Species and the Question of Essentialism. Synthese 131 (2):191-213.
C. Chung (2003). On the Origin of the Typological/Population Distinction in Ernst Mayr's Changing Views of Species, 1942-1959. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 34 (2):277-296.
L. Gannett (2003). The Normal Genome in Twentieth-Century Evolutionary Thought. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 34 (1):143-185.
Margaret Morrison (2004). Population Genetics and Population Thinking: Mathematics and the Role of the Individual. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1189-1200.
Denis M. Walsh (2006). Evolutionary Essentialism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):425-448.
Bence Nanay (2010). Population Thinking as Trope Nominalism. Synthese 177 (1):91 - 109.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads94 ( #8,939 of 740,548 )
Recent downloads (6 months)2 ( #37,455 of 740,548 )
How can I increase my downloads?