David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):387-400 (2003)
The current widespread belief that taxonomic methods used before Darwin were essentialist is ill-founded. The essentialist method developed by followers of Plato and Aristotle required definitions to state properties that are always present. Polythetic groups do not obey that requirement, whatever may have been the ontological beliefs of the taxonomist recognizing such groups. Two distinct methods of forming higher taxa, by chaining and by examplar, were widely used in the period between Linnaeus and Darwin, and both generated polythetic groups. Philosopher William Whewell congratulated pre-Darwinian taxonomists for not adhering to the rigid ideal of definition used in the mathematical sciences. What he called the method of types is here called the method of exemplars because typology has been equated with essentialism, whereas the use of a type species as the reference point or prototype for a higher category was a practice inconsistent with essentialism. The story that the essentialism of philosophers dominated the development of systematics may prove to be a myth.
|Keywords||Essentialism History Linnaeus Mayr Method of exemplars Polythetic groups Popper Typology Whewell|
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Citations of this work BETA
Staffan Müller-Wille (2007). Collection and Collation: Theory and Practice of Linnaean Botany. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 38 (3):541-562.
Joeri Witteveen (forthcoming). Suppressing Synonymy with a Homonym: The Emergence of the Nomenclatural Type Concept in Nineteenth Century Natural History. Journal of the History of Biology.
David L. Hull (2006). The Essence of Scientific Theories. Biological Theory 1 (1):17-19.
Maureen A. O’Malley (2010). Ernst Mayr, the Tree of Life, and Philosophy of Biology. Biology and Philosophy 25 (4):529-552.
Staffan Müller-Wille (2007). Collection and Collation: Theory and Practice of Linnaean Botany. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (3):541-562.
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