Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1225-1243 (2017)

Stephen Andrew Inkpen
Harvard University
W. Doolittle
Dalhousie University
Microbiologists are transitioning from the study and characterization of individual strains or species to the profiling of whole microbiomes and microbial ecology. Equipped with high-throughput methods for studying the taxonomic and functional characteristics of diverse samples, they are just beginning to encounter the conceptual, theoretical, and experimental problems of comparing taxonomy to function, and extracting useful measures from such comparisons. Although still unresolved, these problems are well studied in macro-ecology and are reiterated here as an historical precautionary for microbial ecologists. Beyond expected and unresolved terminological vagueness, we argue that assessments and comparisons of taxonomic and functional profiles in micro-ecology suffer from theoretically unresolvable arbitrariness and ambiguities. We divide these into problems of scale, individuation, and commensurability. We argue that there is no technically/theoretically “correct” scale, individuation, or comparison of taxonomy and function, but there are nonetheless better and worse methodologies for profiling.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10539-017-9602-2
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,360
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

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What, If Anything, is a Higher Taxon?Kristin Conrad Guyot - 1987 - Dissertation, Cornell University
Legal Taxonomy.Emily Sherwin - 2009 - Legal Theory 15 (1):25.
The 'Platforms' for Comparing Incommensurable Taxonomies: A Cognitive-Historical Analysis. [REVIEW]Xiang Chen - 2002 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 33 (1):1-22.
Madness and Modularity: Theoretical Issues in Psychiatric Nosology.Dominic Paul Murphy - 1999 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
A Taxonomy of Cognitive Artifacts: Function, Information, and Categories.Richard Heersmink - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):465-481.
Principles of Animal Taxonomy.G. G. Simpson - 1961 - Columbia University Press.
Concepts of Rational Taxonomy in Biology.Pavlinov Igor - 2011 - Biology Bulletin Reviews 1 (3):60-78.
Taxonomy and Philosophy of Names.Mikael Härlin & Per Sundberg - 1998 - Biology and Philosophy 13 (2):233-244.
A Critique of Vihvelin’s Three-Fold Classification.Kristin Mickelson - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):85-99.


Added to PP index

Total views
20 ( #536,768 of 2,448,880 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #300,727 of 2,448,880 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes