Aleta Quinn
University of Idaho
In this paper I sketch William Whewell’s attempts to impose order on classificatory mineralogy, which was in Whewell’s day (1794e1866) a confused science of uncertain prospects. Whewell argued that progress was impeded by the crude reductionist assumption that all macroproperties of crystals could be straightforwardly explained by reference to the crystals’ chemical constituents. By comparison with biological classification, Whewell proposed methodological reforms that he claimed would lead to a natural classification of minerals, which in turn would support advances in causal understanding of the properties of minerals. Whewell’s comparison to successful biological classification is particularly striking given that classificatory biologists did not share an understanding of the causal structure underlying the natural classification of life (the common descent with modification of all organisms). Whewell’s key proposed methodological reform is consideration of multiple, distinct principles of classification. The most powerful evidence in support of a natural classificatory claim is the consilience of claims arrived at through distinct lines of reasoning, rooted in distinct conceptual approaches to the target objects. Mineralogists must consider not only elemental composition and chemical affinities, but also symmetry and polarity. Geometrical properties are central to what makes an individual mineral the type of mineral that it is. In Whewell’s view, function and organization jointly define life, and so are the keys to understanding what makes an organism the type of organism that it is. I explain the relationship between Whewell’s teleological account of life and his natural theology. I conclude with brief comments about the importance of Whewell’s classificatory theory for the further development of his philosophy of science and in particular his account of consilience.
Keywords Whewell  Consilience  Systematics  Classification  Mineralogy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2017.06.007
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: 68,944
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Creation of the Essentialism Story: An Exercise in Metahistory.Mary P. Winsor - 2006 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 28 (2):149 - 174.
Non-Essentialist Methods in Pre-Darwinian Taxonomy.Mary P. Winsor - 2003 - Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):387-400.
The Phenomena of Homology.Paul Edmund Griffiths - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (5):643-658.
John Stuart Mill on Taxonomy and Natural Kinds.P. D. Magnus - 2015 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (2):269-280.

View all 23 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Natural Classes in Brentano's Psychology.Arnaud Dewalque - 2018 - Brentano‐Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch der Franz Brentano Forschung 16:111-142.
William Whewell.Laura J. Snyder - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Reception of Positivism in Whewell, Mill and Brentano.Arnaud Dewalque - forthcoming - In Ion Tanasescu, Alexandru Bejinariu, Susan Krantz Gabriel & Constantin Stoenescu (eds.), Brentano and the Positive Philosophy of Comte and Mill. Berlin, Allemagne: De Gruyter.
“I would sooner die than give up”: Huxley and Darwin's deep disagreement.Mary P. Winsor - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-36.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Confirmation for a Modest Realism.Laura J. Snyder - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):839-849.
Whewell's Consilience of Inductions–An Evaluation.Menachem Fisch - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (2):239-255.
Whewell’s Tidal Researches: Scientific Practice and Philosophical Methodology.Steffen Ducheyne - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (1):26-40.
William Whewell’s Philosophy of Architecture and the Historicization of Biology.Aleta Quinn - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 1 (59):11-19.
Novum Organon Renovatum.William Whewell - 2018 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 55 (2):186-211.
Whewell and Mill on Induction.Harold T. Walsh - 1962 - Philosophy of Science 29 (3):279-284.
Mapping the Space of Time: Temporal Representation in the Historical Sciences.Robert J. O'Hara - 1996 - Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences 20: 7–17.
‘Lord Only of the Ruffians and Fiends’? William Whewell and the Plurality of Worlds Debate.Laura J. Snyder - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (3):584-592.
Discoverers' Induction.Laura J. Snyder - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (4):580-604.
Quantitative Realizations of Philosophy of Science: William Whewell and Statistical Methods.Kent Johnson - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (3):399-409.


Added to PP index

Total views
38 ( #296,367 of 2,497,999 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #212,593 of 2,497,999 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes