Non-essentialist methods in pre-Darwinian taxonomy

Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):387-400 (2003)
Abstract
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
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 11,412
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA
Phillip R. Sloan (2013). The Species Problem and History. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):237-241.
Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

40 ( #43,551 of 1,103,045 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #84,821 of 1,103,045 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.