The individuality of the species: A Darwinian theory? — From Buffon to Ghiselin, and back to Darwin [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 11 (2):215-244 (1996)
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Abstract

Since the 1970s, there has been a tremendous amount of literature on Ghiselin's proposal that species are individuals. After recalling the origins and stakes of this thesis in contemporary evolutionary theory, I show that it can also be found in the writings of the French naturalist Buffon in the 18th Century. Although Buffon did not have the conception that one species could be derived from another, there is an interesting similarity between the modern argument and that of Buffon regarding the individuality of species. The analogy is strong enough to force us to recognize that genuine evolutionary (or Darwinian) questions might be of secondary importance in the discussion. In consequence, the third section of the paper proposes an alternative schema for the logical structure of the Darwinian concept of species. Darwin distinguished the problem of the designation of a concrete species, and the problem of its signification of species within his theory of descent? The resulting notion of species involves a logical structure based on the fusion of the logical operations of classification and ordering. The difficulty — and interest — is that this interpretation of species does not entail any precise operational definition of species; it can only tell us what the ultimate signification of classification is within the theory of descent with modification through natural selection.

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Jean Gayon
Université paris 1

References found in this work

Kritik der reinen Vernunft.Immanuel Kant - 2020 - Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 2003 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.
Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics.Peter Strawson - 1959 - London, England: Routledge. Edited by Wenfang Wang.
On the origin of species.Charles Darwin - 2008 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Gillian Beer.
The Structure of Biological Science.Alexander Rosenberg - 1985 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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