Scientific essentialism in the light of classification practice in biology – a case study of phytosociology.
Zagadnienia Naukoznawstwa 48 (194):231-250 (2012)
AbstractIn our paper we investigate a difficulty arising when one tries to reconsiliateessentialis t’s thinking with classification practice in the biological sciences. The article outlinessome varieties of essentialism with particular attention to the version defended by Brian Ellis. Weunderline the basic difference: Ellis thinks that essentialism is not a viable position in biology dueto its incompatibility with biological typology and other essentialists think that these two elementscan be reconciled. However, both parties have in common metaphysical starting point and theylack explicit track of methodological procedures. Methodological inquiry involves less demandingassumptions than metaphysical, and therefore it is justified to analyse abovementioned discrepancy between Ellis and other essentialist in this context. We do it by bottom-up investigation whichfocuses on the practice of taxonomists in the particular field of biology. A case study helps us todiscover four characteristics of biological typology practice: impossibility of algorithmization,relativity, subjectivity and conventionality. These features prove non-realistic and therefore anti-essentialistic character of biological classification. We conclude by saying that any essentialismrelated to the notion of biological kind cannot be regarded as justified by scientific enterprise of creating typologies.
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