Traditionally, species have been treated as classes. In fact they may be considered individuals. The logical term “individual” has been confused with a biological synonym for “organism.” If species are individuals, then: 1) their names are proper, 2) there cannot be instances of them, 3) they do not have defining properties, 4) their constituent organisms are parts, not members. “ Species " may be defined as the most extensive units in the natural economy such that reproductive competition occurs among their (...) parts. Species are to evolutionary theory as firms are to economic theory: this analogy resolves many issues, such as the problems of “reality” and the ontological status of nomenclatorial types. (shrink)
"Adaptation" has several meanings which have often been confused, including relations, processes, states, and intrinsic properties. It is used in comparative and historical contexts. "Adaptation" and "environment" may designate probabilistic concepts. Recognition of these points refutes arguments for the notions that: 1) all organisms are perfectly adapted; 2) organisms cannot be ill-adapted and survive or well-adapted and die; 3) adaptation is necessarily relative to the environment; 4) change in environment is necessary for evolution; 5) preadaptation implies teleology. Such notions are (...) associated with metaphysical ideas, and may affect the thinking of biologists. (shrink)
Darwin''s biology was teleological only if the term teleology is defined in a manner that fails to recognize his contribution to the metaphysics and epistemology of modern science. His use of teleological metaphors in a strictly teleonomic context is irrelevant to the meaning of his discourse. The myth of Darwin''s alleged teleology is partly due to misinterpretations of discussions about whether morphology should be a purely formal science. Merely rejecting such notions as special creation and vitalism does not prevent the (...) pernicious effects of teleological reasoning, even at the present time. (shrink)
The differences between classes and individuals are profound and the fact that biological species are individuals rather than classes provides the basis for organizing knowledge on a causal basis. The class of species is a natural kind and there are laws of nature for this and other classes of natural kinds such as the organism and the molecule. Particular species, like other individuals, function in historical narratives by virtue of laws of nature applying to them. The notion that species can (...) evolve by changing their members is a category mistake. Darwin believed that there is no “essential” difference between species and subspecies in the sense that there is only a quantitative difference between them. The concept of biological species is defined on the basis of a qualitative difference. The rank of taxa can be used to distinguish between important natural kinds. Without such kinds language would become purely referential, and have no “sense” as Frege had put it. (shrink)
Darwin proclaimed his own work revolutionary. His revolution, however, is still in progress, and the changes that are going on are reflected in the contemporary historical and philosophical literature, including that written by scientists. The changes have taken place at different levels, and have tended to occur at the more superficial ones. The new ontology that arose as a consequence of the realization that species are individuals at once provides an analytical tool for explaining what has been happening and an (...) example of the kind of changes that seem in order. It provides a clear distinction between the roles of history and of laws of nature. Pre-Darwinian "evolution" was superficial in the sense that it treated change as either as something pre-ordained or else due to timeless laws of nature, rather than historical contingency. Darwinism puts the ontological emphasis upon concrete, particular things (individuals) and therefore delegitimizes both essentialistic and teleological ways of thinking. However, traditional ways of thinking have persisted, if not explicitly, then often as assumptions and procedures that are merely implicit or even unconscious. As a result, anti-evolutionary attitudes continue to influence the practice of evolutionary biology as well as the study of its history and philosophy. (shrink)
The whole-part relationship is generally considered transitive, but there are some apparent exceptions. Componential sortals create some apparent problems. Homo sapiens, the Pope, and his heart are all individuals. A human being, such as the Pope, is an organism-level component of Homo sapiens. The Pope’s heart is an organ-level component of both Homo sapiens and the Pope. Although the Pope is a part, and not an instance, of the Roman Catholic Church, it seems odd to say that his heart is (...) a part of that church. This is largely because the Pope’s heart does not have a place in the ecclesiastical government. However, it does contribute to the functioning of the organization. One popular alternative to the view that Homo sapiens is an individual is the notion that it is a natural kind. This has been done by redefining ‘natural kind’ in such a manner that not just the Roman Catholic Church, but the Pope and every other human being is a natural kind as well. (shrink)
An 'anatomy' is a literary work that treats a particul.1r topic at great length and in minute detail. Viewed as a contribution to that genre, this massive and prolix tome may be read with patience and also with sympathy for its author. Gould diccl around the time that it was published, and the book is a fitting monument to his life's work. Because he goes into so much detail, providing an immense amount..
The notion that Charles Darwin embraced the German Romantic tradition seems plausible, given the early influence of Alexander von Humboldt. But this view fails to do justice to other scientific traditions. Darwin was a protégé of the Englishman John Stevens Henslow and was a follower of the Scott Charles Lyell. He had important debts to French scientists, notably Henri Milne-Edwards, Étienne and Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, and Alphonse de Candolle. Many Germans were quite supportive of Darwin, but not all of these (...) were encumbered by idealistic metaphysical baggage. Both Darwin and Anton Dohrn treated science as very much a cosmopolitan enterprise. (shrink)
Atran's treatment of classification suggests a need to recognize the difference between ontological categories and less metaphysically fundamental distinctions. The shift that scientists have made from classes to individuals may not be as pervasive as he proposes, and the same may be said for the abandonment of essences. It is also possible that the sort of causality that is of concern to scientists plays a role in folk classification.
The notion of a superorganism has had a long and not altogether respectable history (Ghiselin 1974). The idea of comparing the world to a divine animal goes back to a creation myth in Plato's dialogue Timaeus, and it has played an important role in occult metaphysics ever since. Astrology, for example, works by superimposing a diagram of the human body over a map of the celestial bodies. The analogy between organisms and societies has also played a major role in political (...) discourse. The superorganism has been particularly popular with those who would have the individual citizen exist for the sake of the state, rather than the state for the sake of the citizen. Among community ecologists and students of social .. (shrink)
In Darwinian terminology, “sexual selection” refers to purely reproductive competition and is conceptually distinct from natural selection as it affects reproduction generally. As natural selection may favor the evolution of sexual dimorphism by virtue of the division of labor between males and females, this possibility needs to be taken very seriously.
Millikan's account of how we acquire our most basic concepts might be clarified by a better ontological taxonomy, especially one that distinguishes between natural kinds on the one hand and wholes composed of parts on the other. The two have a different causal basis, which is important because once classification goes beyond the stage of naive induction, it becomes fundamentally etiological.