Species, languages, and the horizontal/vertical distinction

Biology and Philosophy 17 (2):171-198 (2002)
Abstract
In addition to the distinction between species as a category and speciesas a taxon, the word species is ambiguous in a very different butequally important way, namely the temporal distinction between horizontal andvertical species. Although often found in the relevant literature, thisdistinction has thus far remained vague and undefined. In this paper the use ofthe distinction is explored, an attempt is made to clarify and define it, andthen the relation between the two dimensions and the implications of thatrelation are examined. Using Darwin's analogy of language evolution forspeciesevolution, and by appealing to a major change in the conception of languagebetween 19th- and 20th-century linguistics, it is argued that the horizontaldimension has priority (pragmatic, epistemological, logical, and ontological)over the vertical dimension. This has immense ramifications for the modernspecies problem. Fundamentally, it favors horizontal species concepts oververtical ones. In so doing it places species realism on a much more securefoundation and largely undercuts species pluralism. In addition it raises aserious problem for the increasingly popular family of phylogenetic speciesconcepts, which generally suffer from a dimensionality confusion. However,thereis a recent trend within this family that attempts to restore the priority ofthe horizontal dimension. It is concluded that this trend should be affirmedandthat the species-as-individuals view should be abandoned.
Keywords Darwin  evolution  horizontal  languages  species  vertical
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