Edited by John Wilkins (University of Melbourne)
About this topic
Summary The metaphysics and epistemology of species is a highly contested area in biology, from well before Darwin. Since the New Synthesis, however, philosophers have engaged in discussions regarding essentialism in biology, the role of cladistics and the Linnaean taxonomic methods, and the ontology of systematics. 
Key works Ereshefsky 2000: The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy Wilkins 2009: Species: A History of the Idea Richards 2010: The Species Problem: A Philosophical Analysis
Introductions Wilkins 2011 Wilkins 2010
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  1. Radical Pluralism, Classificatory Norms and the Legitimacy of Species Classifications.Stijn Conix - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 73:27-34.
    Moderate pluralism is a popular position in contemporary philosophy of biology. Despite its popularity, various authors have argued that it tends to slide off into a radical form of pluralism that is both normatively and descriptively unacceptable. This paper looks at the case of biological species classification, and evaluates a popular way of avoiding radical pluralism by relying on the shared aims and norms of a discipline. The main contention is that while these aims and norms may play an important (...)
  2. In Defence of Taxonomic Governance.Stijn Conix - 2019 - Organisms, Diversity and Evolution 19 (2):87-97.
    It is well known that taxonomists rely on many different methods and criteria for species delimitation, leading to different kinds of groups being recognised as species. While this state of relative disorder is widely acknowledged, there is no similar agreement about how it should be resolved. This paper considers the view that the disorder in species classification should be resolved by a system of taxonomic governance. I argue that such a system of governance is best seen as a combination of (...)
  3. Values, Regulation, and Species Delimitation.Stijn Conix - 2018 - Zootaxa 4415 (2):390-392.
    Garnett and Christidis (2017) [hereafter GC] recently proposed that the International Union of the Biological Sciences should centrally regulate the taxonomy of complex organisms. Their proposal was met with much criticism (e.g. Hołyński 2017; Thomson et al., 2018), and perhaps most extensively from Raposo et al. (2017) in this journal. The main target of this criticism was GC’s call to, first, “restrict the freedom of taxonomic action”, and, second, to let social, political and conservation values weigh in on species classification. (...)
  4. What Do Biologists Make of the Species Problem?Damjan Franjević, Pavel Gregorić & Bruno Pušić - 2017 - Acta Biotheoretica 65 (3):179-209.
    The concept of species is one of the core concepts in biology and one of the cornerstones of evolutionary biology, yet it is rife with conceptual problems. Philosophers of biology have been discussing the concept of species for decades, and in doing so they sometimes appeal to the views of biologists. However, their statements as to what biologists think are seldom supported by empirical data. In order to investigate what biologists actually think about the key issues related to the problem (...)
  5. Taxonomic Revision of the Olingos (Bassaricyon), with Description of a New Species, the Olinguito.Kristofer M. Helgen, C. Miguel Pinto, Roland Kays, Lauren E. Helgen, Mirian T. N. Tsuchiya, Aleta Quinn, Don E. WIlson & Jesús E. Maldonado - 2013 - Zookeys 1 (324):1-83.
    We present the first comprehensive taxonomic revision and review the biology of the olingos, the endemic Neotropical procyonid genus Bassaricyon, based on most specimens available in museums, and with data derived from anatomy, morphometrics, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, field observations, and geographic range modeling. Species of Bassaricyon are primarily forest-living, arboreal, nocturnal, frugivorous, and solitary, and have one young at a time. We demonstrate that four olingo species can be recognized, including a Central American species (Bassaricyon gabbii), lowland species with (...)
  6. Jody Hey, Genes, Categories, and Species: The Evolutionary and Cognitive Causes of the Species Problem. Oxford: Oxford University Press , Xvii+217pp., $54.50. [REVIEW]Michael Dietrich - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (4):619-620.
  7. Certainty and Circularity in Evolutionary Taxonomy.David L. Hull - 1967 - Evolution 21 (1):174-189.
    Certain lines of reasoning common in evolutionary taxonomy have been termed viciously circular. They are quite obviously not logically circular. They do give the superficial appearance of epistemological circularity. This appearance arises from the method of successive approximation used by evolutionary taxonomists. It is argued that this method is not epistemologically circular, even when the only evidence that the taxonomist has to go on is the phenetic similarity of contemporary forms. The important criticism of evolutionary taxonomy is rather that in (...)
  8. Consistency and Monophyly.David L. Hull - 1964 - Systematic Zoology 13 (1):1-11.
  9. Driven to Extinction? The Ethics of Eradicating Mosquitoes with Gene-Drive Technologies.Jonathan Pugh - 2016 - Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (9):578-581.
    Mosquito-borne diseases represent a significant global disease burden, and recent outbreaks of such diseases have led to calls to reduce mosquito populations. Furthermore, advances in ‘gene-drive’ technology have raised the prospect of eradicating certain species of mosquito via genetic modification. This technology has attracted a great deal of media attention, and the idea of using gene-drive technology to eradicate mosquitoes has been met with criticism in the public domain. In this paper, I shall dispel two moral objections that have been (...)
  10. Could There Be a Superhuman Species?David S. Oderberg - unknown
    Transhumanism is the school of thought that advocates the use of technology to enhance the human species, to the point where some supporters consider that a new species altogether could arise. Even some critics think this at least a technological possibility. Some supporters also believe the emergence of a new, improved, superhuman species raises no special ethical questions. Through an examination of the metaphysics of species, and an analysis of the essence of the human species, I argue that the existence (...)
  11. Leen Spruit, Species Intelligibilis: From Perception to Knowledge, Vol. I: Classical Roots and Medieval Discussions, Vol. II: Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism, and the Elimination of the Intelligible Species in Modern Philosophy. E.J. Brill, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994 and 1995, 452 P. And 590 P. ISBN 90-04-0988-3-6/90-04-10396-1. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1996 - Vivarium 34 (2):280-283.
  12. Ghiselin and Mayr on Species.Laurance Splitter - 1988 - Biology and Philosophy 3 (4):462.
  13. In Defense of Species.Joseph Laporte - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (1):255-269.
    In this paper, I address the charge that the category species should be abandoned in biological work. The widespread appeal to species in scientific discourse provides a presumption in favor of the category’s usefulness, but a defeasible presumption. Widely acknowledged troubles attend species: these troubles might render the concept unusable by showing that ‘species’ is equivocal or meaningless or in some similar way fatally flawed. Further, there might be better alternatives to species. I argue that the presumption in favor of (...)
  14. The Ontology of Evolutionary Theory: Are Species Individuals Rather Than Classes?Jorge Flematti - 1983 - Critica 15 (44):63-73.
  15. Species, Rules and Meaning: The Politics of Language and the Ends of Definitions in 19th Century Natural History.Gordon R. McOuat - 1996 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (4):473-519.
  16. Pre-Theoretical Aspects of Aristotelian Definition and Classification of Animals: The Case for Common Sense.Scott Atran - 1985 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (2):113.
  17. Who is the Invader? Alien Species, Property Rights, and the Police Power: Mark Sagoff.Mark Sagoff - 2009 - Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (2):26-52.
    This paper argues that the occurrence of a non-native species, such as purple loosestrife, on one's property does not constitute a nuisance in the context of background principles of common law. No one is injured by it. The control of non-native species, such as purple loosestrife, does not constitute a compelling public interest, moreover, but represents primarily the concern of an epistemic community of conservation biologists and ecologists. This paper describes a history of cases in agricultural law that establish that (...)
  18. Marc Ereshefsky, The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy : A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, 328 pages.Marc Ereshefsky, The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy : A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, 328 pages. [REVIEW]Véronica Ponce - 2004 - Philosophiques 31 (1):271-275.
  19. The Species Problem and History. [REVIEW]Phillip R. Sloan - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 44 (2):237-241.
  20. The New Puzzle of Biological Groups and Individuals.Christian Sachse - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 46 (1):117-120.
  21. Philosophy & Science: Wittgenstein Solves the Species Problem.Massimo Pigliucci - 2005 - Philosophy Now 50:51-51.
  22. Problems of Multi-Species Organisms: Endosymbionts to Holobionts.David C. Queller & Joan E. Strassmann - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):855-873.
    The organism is one of the fundamental concepts of biology and has been at the center of many discussions about biological individuality, yet what exactly it is can be confusing. The definition that we find generally useful is that an organism is a unit in which all the subunits have evolved to be highly cooperative, with very little conflict. We focus on how often organisms evolve from two or more formerly independent organisms. Two canonical transitions of this type—replicators clustered in (...)
  23. The Individuality Thesis.Matthew Haber - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):913-930.
    I spell out and update the individuality thesis, that species are individuals, and not classes, sets, or kinds. I offer three complementary presentations of this thesis. First, as a way of resolving an inconsistent triad about natural kinds; second, as a phylogenetic systematics theoretical perspective; and, finally, as a novel recursive account of an evolved character. These approaches do different sorts of work, serving different interests. Presenting them together produces a taxonomy of the debates over the thesis, and isolates ways (...)
  24. The Semiotic Species in Advance.Silver Rattasepp & Kalevi Kull - forthcoming - American Journal of Semiotics.
  25. A New Approach to Automatic Species Identification Using Biological Data Mining.Seetharam Narasimhan, Shreyas Sen & Amit Konar - 2007 - Journal of Intelligent Systems 16 (4):323-338.
  26. Esencialismo, valores epistémicos y conceptos de especie.Julio Torres - 2011 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 26 (2):177-193.
    RESUMEN: En el actual contexto científico que forma la concepción darwiniana de las especies aún persisten las interpretaciones esencialistas de los conceptos de especie. ¿Se trata aquí sólo de la ignorancia de la teoría biológica? O, más bien, ¿es posible comprender la persistencia de los enfoques esencialistas sobre la base de la potencialidad de estos enfoques para explicar el logro de ciertos valores epistémicos de los actuales conceptos de especie? Me propongo responder afirmativamente a esta última pregunta. En la sección (...)
  27. 2. Cross-Species Encounters.Jane Bennett - 2001 - In The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics. Princeton University Press. pp. 17-32.
  28. The Mystery of the Triceratops’s Mother: How to Be a Realist About the Species Category.Adrian Currie - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (4):795-816.
    Can we be realists about a general category but pluralists about concepts relating to that category? I argue that paleobiological methods of delineating species are not affected by differing species concepts, and that this underwrites an argument that species concept pluralists should be species category realists. First, the criteria by which paleobiologists delineate species are ‘indifferent’ to the species category. That is, their method for identifying species applies equally to any species concept. To identify a new species, paleobiologists show that (...)
  29. Are There Natural Laws Concerning Particular Biological Species?Marc Lange - 1995 - Journal of Philosophy 92 (8):430-451.
  30. Ordering of Adsorbed Species on Quasicrystal Surfaces.J. A. Smerdon, L. H. Wearing, J. K. Parle, L. Leung, H. R. Sharma, J. Ledieu & R. Mcgrath - 2008 - Philosophical Magazine 88 (13-15):2073-2082.
  31. Comments on the Melting Mechanism for Crystalline Species.P. R. Couchman & W. A. Jessee - 1977 - Philosophical Magazine 35 (3):787-790.
  32. Rational Disagreements in Phylogenetics.Fabrizzio Guerrero Mc Manus - 2009 - Acta Biotheoretica 57 (1-2):99-127.
    This paper addresses the general problem of how to rationally choose an algorithm for phylogenetic inference. Specifically, the controversy between maximum likelihood (ML) and maximum parsimony (MP) perspectives is reframed within the philosophical issue of theory choice. A Kuhnian approach in which rationality is bounded and value-laden is offered and construed through the notion of a Style of Modeling. A Style is divided into four stages: collecting remnant models, constructing models of taxonomical identity, implementing modeling algorithms, and finally inferring and (...)
  33. A Tale of Two Taxa.Bernard Wood - 2005 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 60 (2):91-94.
  34. Species Diversity in Human Evolution: Challenges and Opportunities.Robert Foley - 2005 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 60 (2):67-72.
    Over the last 150 years the number of hominin fossils discovered has increased, and with it the taxonomic diversity recognised. There are currently claims for at least 26 hominin species. I consider here the challenge posed by this diversity, and how we can determine, through comparative modelling, whether it is a real evolutionary signal or an artefact of our procedures, and also the opportunities provided to make the science of human evolution a more comparative one.
  35. Description of a New Species of Ampripod.K. H. Barnard - 1951 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 33 (2):279-282.
  36. The Morphology Ofbalanoglossus Capensis, a Species of Enteropneusta From False Bay.C. von Bonde - 1934 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 22 (1):17-33.
  37. On Some New Species of Bacteria Isolated Fromxenopus Laevis.Th Schrire - 1928 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 17 (1):43-49.
  38. Description of a New Species Ofxenopusfrom the Cape Peninsula.W. Rose & J. Hewitt - 1926 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 14 (3):343-346.
  39. Two New Species of Nematodes From the Zebra.Gertrud Theiler - 1923 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 11 (1):197-201.
  40. The Species Concept of Linnaeus.James L. Larson - 1968 - Isis 59 (3):291-299.
  41. Animal Species and EvolutionErnst Mayr.L. C. Dunn - 1964 - Isis 55 (2):225-227.
  42. Systematics and the Origin of Species From the Viewpoint of a Zoologist. Ernst Mayr.Conway Zirkle - 1944 - Isis 35 (1):44-45.
  43. Bacterial Species Pluralism in the Light of Medicine and Endosymbiosis.Javier Suárez - 2016 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31 (1):91-105.
    This paper aims to offer a new argument in defence bacterial species pluralism. To do so, I shall first present the particular issues derived from the conflict between the non-theoretical understanding of species as units of classification and the theoretical comprehension of them as units of evolution. Secondly, I shall justify the necessity of the concept of species for the bacterial world, and show how medicine and endosymbiotic evolutionary theory make use of different concepts of bacterial species due to their (...)
  44. The Biosemiotic Concept of the Species.Kalevi Kull - 2016 - Biosemiotics 9 (1):61-71.
    Any biological species of biparental organisms necessarily includes, and is fundamentally dependent on, sign processes between individuals. In this case, the natural category of the species is based on family resemblances, which is why a species is not a natural kind. We describe the mechanism that generates the family resemblance. An individual recognition window and biparental reproduction almost suffice as conditions to produce species naturally. This is due to assortativity of mating which is not based on certain individual traits, but (...)
  45. Inductive Judgments About Natural Categories.Lance J. Rips - 1975 - Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 14 (6):665-681.
    The present study examined the effects of semantic structure on simple inductive judgments about category members. For a particular category, subjects were told that one of the species had a given property and were asked to estimate the proportion of instances in the other species that possessed the property. The results indicated that category structure—in particular, the typicality of the species—influenced subjects' judgments. These results were interpreted by models based on the following assumption: When little is known about the underlying (...)
  46. The Metaphysical Equivalence Between 3D and 4D Theories of Species.Vanessa Triviño & María Cerezo - 2015 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 71 (4):781-806.
    Resumo Neste artigo, vamos considerar o recente debate na metafísica da evolução, no que diz respeito tanto à persistência como à “mudança” em espécies biológicas, segundo a tese que considera a espécie como o agregado de indivíduos. Centrar-nos-emos na proposta de Thomas Reydon, que argumenta que em biologia, o termo “espécie” refere-se a duas entidades biológicas, por si denominadas evolverons e phylons, que desempenham vários papéis epistemológicos em pelo menos duas disciplinas diferentes, nomeadamente na biologia sistemática e na biologia evolutiva. (...)
  47. How Reticulated Are Species?James Mallet, Nora Besansky & Matthew W. Hahn - 2016 - Bioessays 38 (2):140-149.
  48. Origin of the Species and Genus Concepts: An Anthropological Perspective.Scott Atran - 1987 - Journal of the History of Biology 20 (2):195-279.
  49. Darwin, Vital Matter, and the Transformism of Species.Phillip R. Sloan - 1986 - Journal of the History of Biology 19 (3):369-445.
  50. Aristotle on Genera, Species, And?The More and the Less?James G. Lennox - 1980 - Journal of the History of Biology 13 (2):321-346.
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