Darwinian metaphysics: Species and the question of essentialism

Synthese 131 (2):191-213 (2002)
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Abstract

Biologists and philosophers of biology typically regard essentialism about speciesas incompatible with modern Darwinian theory. Analytic metaphysicians such asKripke, Putnam and Wiggins, on the other hand, believe that their essentialist thesesare applicable to biological kinds. I explore this tension. I show that standard anti-essentialist considerations only show that species do not have intrinsic essential properties. I argue that while Putnam and Kripke do make assumptions that contradict received biological opinion, their model of natural kinds, suitably modified, is partially applicable to biological species. However, Wiggins'' thesis that organisms belong essentially to their species is untenable, given modern species concepts. I suggest that Putnam''s, Kripke''s and Wiggins'' errors stem from adopting an account of the point of scientific classification which implies that relationally-defined kinds are likely to be of little value, an account which is inapplicable to biology.

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Samir Okasha
University of Bristol

Citations of this work

Natural Kindness.Matthew H. Slater - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):375-411.
Unity of Science.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2021 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Resurrecting biological essentialism.Michael Devitt - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (3):344-382.
The metaphysics of natural kinds.Alexander Bird - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1397-1426.

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References found in this work

The Nature of Necessity.Alvin Plantinga - 1974 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Philosophy of Biology.Elliott Sober - 1993 - Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
The Structure of Biological Science.Alexander Rosenberg - 1985 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
A Radical Solution to the Species Problem.Michael T. Ghiselin - 1974 - Systematic Zoology 23 (4):536–544.

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