‘Species’ without species

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87 (C):72-80 (2021)
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Biological science uses multiple species concepts. Order can be brought to this diversity if we recognize two key features. First, any given species concept is likely to have a patchwork structure, generated by repeated application of the concept to new domains. We illustrate this by showing how two species concepts (biological and ecological) have been modified from their initial eukaryotic applications to apply to prokaryotes. Second, both within and between patches, distinct species concepts may interact and hybridize. We thus defend a semantic picture of the species concept as a collection of interacting patchwork structures. Thus, although not all uses of the term pick out the same kind of unit in nature, the diversity of uses reflects something more than mere polysemy. We suggest that the emphasis on the use of species to pick out natural units is itself problematic, because that is not the term’s sole function. In particular, species concepts are used to manage inquiry into processes of speciation, even when these processes do not produce clearly delimited species.



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Author Profiles

Rose Novick
University of Washington
W. Doolittle
Dalhousie University

Citations of this work

What Conceptual Engineering Can Learn from the History of Philosophy of Science: Healthy Externalism and Metasemantic Plasticity.Matteo De Benedetto - 2024 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 14 (1):1-24.
Patchworks and operations.Rose Novick & Philipp Haueis - 2023 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 13 (1):1-21.
Attention as a patchwork concept.Henry Taylor - 2023 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 13 (3):1-25.

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A generalized patchwork approach to scientific concepts.Philipp Haueis - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Eliminative pluralism.Marc Ereshefsky - 1992 - Philosophy of Science 59 (4):671-690.
Species pluralism and anti-realism.Marc Ereshefsky - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (1):103-120.
Smaller than a Breadbox: Scale and Natural Kinds.Julia R. Bursten - 2018 - British Journal for Philosophy of Science 69 (1):1-23.

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