Acta Biotheoretica 55 (4):341-355 (2007)

Abstract
Sound definitions of its basic concepts are fundamental to every scientific discipline. In some instances, like in the case of the ecosystem concept, the question arises if we can define such concepts at all. And if we can define them, how should we choose from the multiple definitions available? And what are the preconditions for a scientifically sound and useful definition? On the basis of the ecosystem concept, this paper illustrates a major, often neglected distinction in the definition of ecological concepts, namely that between defining criteria and additional descriptive statements connected to those definitions. As is demonstrated by examples from the literature, mixing up these categories leads to false inferences about the properties of physical objects (e.g. a particular forest) subsumed by the concept (e.g. the ecosystem). As a further consequence, this inference becomes problematic in terms of theory development and/or the application of ecological concepts for management decisions.
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10441-007-9024-7
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References found in this work BETA

Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science.Edward Poznański - 1958 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 23 (3):353-354.
Toward a Unified Ecology.Timothy F. H. Allen, Thomas W. Hoekstra & Frank N. Egerton - 1995 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 17 (1):173.
Holocoen and Ecosystem: On the Origin and Historical Consequences of Two Concepts.Kurt Jax - 1998 - Journal of the History of Biology 31 (1):113 - 142.
Hauptströmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie.W. Stegmüller - 1953 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 15 (3):530-531.

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Le Commensalisme: Un Concept Fondamental En Écologie?Commensalism: A Fundamental Concept in Ecology?Brice Poreau - 2013 - NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 21 (3):273-284.

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