Biology and Philosophy 7 (2): 135–160 (1992)

Authors
Robert J. O'Hara
Harvard University (PhD)
Abstract
Accounts of the evolutionary past have as much in common with works of narrative history as they do with works of science. Awareness of the narrative character of evolutionary writing leads to the discovery of a host of fascinating and hitherto unrecognized problems in the representation of evolutionary history, problems associated with the writing of narrative. These problems include selective attention, narrative perspective, foregrounding and backgrounding, differential resolution, and the establishment of a canon of important events. The narrative aspects of evolutionary writing, however, which promote linearity and cohesiveness in conventional stories, conflict with the underlying chronicle of evolution, which is not linear, but branched, and which does not cohere, but diverges. The impulse to narrate is so great, however, and is so strongly reinforced by traditional schemes of taxonomic attention, that natural historians have more often abandoned the diverging tree than they have abandoned the narrative mode of representation. If we are to understand the true nature of the evolutionary past then we must adopt tree thinking, and develop new and creative ways, both narrative and non-narrative, of telling the history of life.
Keywords cladistics  evolutionary history  historical sciences  narrative  natural system  phylogeny  progress  systematics  tree-thinking  teleology
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/BF00129880
Options
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: 62,289
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Against Method.Paul Feyerabend - 1975 - London: New Left Books.
Against Method.P. Feyerabend - 1975 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):331-342.
Wonderful Life; The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History.Stephen Jay Gould - 1992 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 23 (2):359-360.

View all 44 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Histories of Molecules: Reconciling the Past.Maureen A. O'Malley - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:69-83.
Anthropocentricisms in Cladograms.Hanno Sandvik - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):425-440.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Narrative and History.Alun Munslow - 2007 - Palgrave-Macmillan.
The Logical Skeleton of Darwin's Historical Methodology.Mary B. Williams - 1986 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986:514 - 521.
Understanding Narrative Explanation: An Eclectic Approach.Björn Eriksson - 2005 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):317-344.
Anthropocentricisms in Cladograms.Hanno Sandvik - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):425-440.
The Discovery of Evolution.David Young - 2007 - Cambridge University Press, in Association with Natural History Museum, London.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
159 ( #65,608 of 2,444,969 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #311,040 of 2,444,969 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes