Hilary and me: Tracking down Putnam on the realism issue

The paper I gave at the Dublin conference celebrating Hilary Putnam’s 80th birthday was “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008). This was suitable for a celebratory event because it defended Putnam’s position on biological essentialism (1975) from the consensus in the philosophy of biology. This consensus has led to some severe criticisms of Putnam. Michael Ruse, for example, places Putnam, along with Saul Kripke and David Wiggins, “somewhere to the right of Aristotle” on essentialism and talks of them showing “an almost proud ignorance of the organic world” (1987, 358n). John Dupré argues that the views of Putnam and Kripke are fatally divergent from “some actual biological facts and theories” (1981, 66). I argue that the consensus is quite wrong about essentialism and hence that these criticisms are misplaced
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