Character analysis in cladistics: Abstraction, reification, and the search for objectivity

Acta Biotheoretica 57 (1-2):129-162 (2009)

Authors
Rasmus Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract
The dangers of character reification for cladistic inference are explored. The identification and analysis of characters always involves theory-laden abstraction—there is no theory-free “view from nowhere.” Given theory-ladenness, and given a real world with actual objects and processes, how can we separate robustly real biological characters from uncritically reified characters? One way to avoid reification is through the employment of objectivity criteria that give us good methods for identifying robust primary homology statements. I identify six such criteria and explore each with examples. Ultimately, it is important to minimize character reification, because poor character analysis leads to dismal cladograms, even when proper phylogenetic analysis is employed. Given the deep and systemic problems associated with character reification, it is ironic that philosophers have focused almost entirely on phylogenetic analysis and neglected character analysis.
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10441-008-9064-7
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References found in this work BETA

Evolution and the Levels of Selection.Samir Okasha - 2009 - Critica 41 (123):162-170.
Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (S3):S342-S353.
Reason, Truth and History.Kathleen Okruhlik - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (4):692-694.

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Citations of this work BETA

Part-Whole Science.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2011 - Synthese 178 (3):397-427.
Validity and Utility in Biological Traits.Sean A. Valles - 2013 - Biological Theory 8 (1):93-102.

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