Collection and collation: theory and practice of Linnaean botany


Authors
Staffan Müller-Wille
Universität Zu Lübeck
Abstract
Historians and philosophers of science have interpreted the taxonomic theory of Carl Linnaeus as an ‘essentialist’, ‘Aristotelian’, or even ‘scholastic’ one. This interpretation is flatly contradicted by what Linnaeus himself had to say about taxonomy in Systema naturae , Fundamenta botanica and Genera plantarum . This paper straightens out some of the more basic misinterpretations by showing that: Linnaeus’s species concept took account of reproductive relations among organisms and was therefore not metaphysical, but biological; Linnaeus did not favour classification by logical division, but criticized it for necessarily failing to represent what he called ‘natural’ genera; Linnaeus’s definitions of ‘natural’ genera and species were not essentialist, but descriptive and polytypic; Linnaeus’s method in establishing ‘natural’ definitions was not deductive, but consisted in an inductive, bottom-up procedure of comparing concrete specimens. The conclusion will discuss the fragmentary and provisional nature of Linnaeus’s ‘natural method’. I will argue in particular that Linnaeus opted for inductive strategies not on abstract epistemological grounds, but in order to confer stability and continuity to the explorative practices of contemporary natural history
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2007.06.010
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References found in this work BETA

Non-Essentialist Methods in Pre-Darwinian Taxonomy.Mary P. Winsor - 2003 - Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):387-400.
The Effect of Essentialism on Taxonomy—Two Thousand Years of Stasis.David L. Hull - 1964 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 15 (60):314-326.
Linaeus' Biology Was Not Essentialist.Mary P. Winsor - 2006 - Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 93 (1):2-7.

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Citations of this work BETA

Integrating Data to Acquire New Knowledge: Three Modes of Integration in Plant Science.Sabina Leonelli - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):503-514.
Classificatory Theory in Data-Intensive Science: The Case of Open Biomedical Ontologies.Sabina Leonelli - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (1):47 - 65.
Natural History and Information Overload: The Case of Linnaeus.Staffan Müller-Wille & Isabelle Charmantier - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):4-15.

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