Individual essentialism in biology

Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):39 (2018)

Authors
Michael Devitt
CUNY Graduate Center
Abstract
A few philosophers of biology have recently explicitly rejected Essential Membership, the doctrine that if an individual organism belongs to a taxon, particularly a species, it does so essentially. But philosophers of biology have not addressed the broader issue, much discussed by metaphysicians on the basis of modal intuitions, of what is essential to the organism. In this paper, I address that issue from a biological basis, arguing for the Kripkean view that an organism has a partly intrinsic, partly historical, essence. The arguments appeal to the demands of biological explanation and are analogous to arguments that I have given elsewhere that a taxon has a partly intrinsic, partly historical, essence. These conclusions about the essences of individuals and taxa yield an argument for Essential Membership. Finally, I cast doubt on LaPorte’s objection to that doctrine arising from the view that a species cannot survive having a daughter.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-018-9651-1
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References found in this work BETA

Essence and Modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8:1-16.
Mind, Language and Reality.H. Putnam - 1975 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 39 (2):361-362.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1981 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
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