The so-called ‘‘species problem’’ has plagued evolution- ary biology since before Darwin’s publication of the aptly titled Origin of Species. Many biologists think the problem is just a matter of semantics; others complain that it will not be solved until we have more empirical data. Yet, we don’t seem to be able to escape discussing it and teaching seminars about it. In this paper, I briefly examine the main themes of the biological and philosophical liter- atures on the species problem, (...) focusing on identifying common threads as well as relevant differences. I then argue two fundamental points. First, the species problem is not primarily an empirical one, but it is rather fraught with philosophical questions that require—but cannot be settled by—empirical evidence. Second, the (dis-)solution lies in explicitly adopting Wittgenstein’s idea of ‘‘familyresemblance’’ or cluster concepts, and to consider spe- cies as an example of such concepts. This solution has several attractive features, including bringing together apparently diverging themes of discussion among bio- logists and philosophers. The current proposal is con- ceptually independent (though not incompatible) with the pluralist approach to the species problem advocated by Mishler, Donoghue, Kitcher and Dupre ́, which implies that distinct aspects of the species question need to be emphasized depending on the goals of the researcher. From the biological literature, the concept of species that most closely matches the philosophical discussion pre- sented here is Templeton’s cohesion idea. (shrink)
In this paper we extend Wittgenstein’s notion of familyresemblance to translation, interpretation, and comparison across traditions. There is no need for universals. This holds for everyday concepts such as green and qing 青, philosophical concepts such as emotion and qing 情, as well as philosophical categories such as form of life and dao 道. These notions as well as all other concepts from whatever tradition are familyresemblance concepts. We introduce the notion of quasi-universal, which (...) connects familyresemblance concepts from a limited number of traditions. The possibility and necessity of extending familyresemblance concepts across traditions dissolves the false antinomy of universalism versus relativism. (shrink)
Ben-Yami presents Wittgenstein’s explicit criticism of the Platonic identification of an explanation with a definition and the alternative forms of explanation he employed. He then discusses a few predecessors of Wittgenstein’s criticisms and the Fregean background against which he wrote. Next, the idea of familyresemblance is introduced, and objections answered. Wittgenstein’s endorsement of vagueness and the indeterminacy of sense are presented, as well as the open texture of concepts. Common misunderstandings are addressed along the way. Wittgenstein’s ideas, (...) as is then shown, have far-reaching implications for knowledge of meaning and the nature of logic, and with them to the nature of the philosophical project and its possible achievements. (shrink)
The introduction of the notion of familyresemblance represented a major shift in Wittgenstein’s thoughts on the meaning of words, moving away from a belief that words were well defined, to a view that words denoted less well defined categories of meaning. This paper presents the use of the notion of familyresemblance in the area of machine learning as an example of the benefits that can accrue from adopting the kind of paradigm shift taken by (...) Wittgenstein. The paper presents a model capable of learning exemplars using the principle of familyresemblance and adopting Bayesian networks for a representation of exemplars. An empirical evaluation is presented on three data sets and shows promising results that suggest that previous assumptions about the way we categories need reopening. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that mental disorder is a valid concept only in so far as it is an extension of or continuous with the concept of physical disorder. A valid extension has to meet two criteria: determination and coherence. Essentialists meet these criteria through necessary and sufficient conditions for being a disorder. Two Wittgensteinian alternatives to essentialism are considered and assessed against the two criteria. These are the familyresemblance approach and the secondary sense approach. Where the (...) focus is solely on the characteristics or attributes of things, both these approaches seem to fail to meet the criteria for valid extension. However, this focus on attributes is mistaken. The criteria for valid extension are met in the case of familyresemblance by the pattern of characteristics associated with a concept, and by the limits of intelligibility of applying a concept. Secondary sense, though it may have some claims to be a good account of the relation between physical and mental disorder, cannot claim to meet the two criteria of valid extension. (shrink)
This is a composite review of three intriguing and provocative books that address the interconnections between East Asian and Western philosophy. Firstly, in _Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural Flesh_, Kwok-Ying Lau thinks that phenomenology can help construct a “cultural flesh” between civilizations that encourages East-West philosophical dialogues, and that China needs to adopt Western terminology to facilitate an intercultural engagement. Merleau-Ponty’s “inter-world” can help this bridge. Secondly, in _Fundamentals of Comparative and Intercultural Philosophy_, Lin Ma and Jaap (...) van Brakel argue that Chinese thinkers of the modern world invent “Chinese philosophy” in order to engage with Western thought. In a distinct fashion, they incorporate a Wittgenstein-inspired scenario whereby the necessary precondition for comparative intercultural philosophy is the “attitude-toward-a-soul principle” alongside the “familyresemblance principle” which includes the “no need to speak the same language principle” or no need for one tradition to adopt another’s terminology. Thirdly, in _Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought_, Eric S. Nelson proposes that intertextual analysis opens multi-dimensional spaces of interpretation to situate changing views of East-West encounters in Germany ranging from Hegel and Kant to Buber and Heidegger. Daoism, Confucianism, Chan and Zen Buddhism are sites for examination by Western thinkers that open portals to East Asian culture and philosophy. (shrink)
Although there is universal consensus both in the science education literature and in the science standards documents to the effect that students should learn not only the content of science but also its nature, there is little agreement about what that nature is. This led many science educators to adopt what is sometimes called “the consensus view” about the nature of science (NOS), whose goal is to teach students only those characteristics of science on which there is wide consensus. This (...) is an attractive view, but it has some shortcomings and weaknesses. In this article we present and defend an alternative approach based on the notion of familyresemblance. We argue that the familyresemblance approach is superior to the consensus view in several ways, which we discuss in some detail. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's remarks about familyresemblance in the Philosophical Investigations should not be construed as implying a comprehensive theory of universals. They possess, rather, a defensive function in his exposition. The remarks allow one, nevertheless, to draw certain general conclusions about how Wittgenstein thought about concepts. Reflection on the notion of familyresemblance reveals that kinship and similarity considerations intersect in it in a problematic fashion.
We argue that all general concepts are familyresemblance concepts. These include concepts introduced by ostension, such as colour. Concepts of colour and of each of the specific colours are familyresemblance concepts because similarities concerning an open-ended range of colour or of appearance features crop up and disappear. After discussing the notion of “same colour” and Wittgenstein's use of the phrase “our colours”, we suggest familyresemblance concepts in one tradition can often be (...) extended to familyresemblance concepts in another tradition, illustrated by Wittgenstein's use of the words Spiel and “game”. (shrink)
It is a commonly raised argument against thefamily resemblance account of concepts that, on thisaccount, there is no limit to a concept's extension.An account of familyresemblance which attempts toprovide a solution to this problem by including bothsimilarity among instances and dissimilarity tonon-instances has been developed by the philosopher ofscience Thomas Kuhn. Similar solutions have beenhinted at in the literature on family resemblanceconcepts, but the solution has never received adetailed investigation. I shall provide areconstruction of Kuhn's (...) theory and argue that hissolution necessitates a developmental perspective withbuilds on both the transmission of taxonomies betweengenerations and a progressive development throughhistory. (shrink)
The emergence of the FamilyResemblance Approach to nature of science has prompted a fresh wave of scholarship embracing this new approach in science education. The FRA provides an ambitious and practical vision for what NOS-enriched science content should aim for and promotes evidence-based practices in science education to support the enactment of such vision. The present article provides an overview of research and development efforts utilizing the FRA and reviews recent empirical studies including those conducted in preservice (...) science teacher education as well as studies utilizing FRA to analyze NOS representations in curriculum documents and textbooks. The article concludes with implications and recommendations for future research and practice. (shrink)
The article begins by considering Wittgenstein’s notion of family-resemblance concepts. The article purports to defend that there is something wrong with the idea that language is a family-resemblance concept, that is, that we take behaviour as being linguistic merely in virtue of undetermined similarities with paradigmatic linguistic behaviour. In order to achieve this goal, it is first clarified in which sense so-called psychological concepts are not family-resemblance concepts. The essential link between the use of (...) the expressions “language” and “linguistic behaviour” and the use of some expressions conveying psychological concepts, such as “saying something”, is then demonstrated. (shrink)
I develop in this paper a conception of artefacts based on L. Wittgenstein’s idea of familyresemblance. My approach peruses the notion of frame, which was invented in cognitive psychology as an operationisable extension of this philosophical idea. Following the metaphor of life-cycle I show how this schematic notion of frame may be filled with the content relevant for artefacts if we consider them from the point of view of their histories. The resulting conception of artefacts provides a (...) new insight into the current debate on artefact categorisation. (shrink)
This paper focuses on recent debates over the nature ofliberalism and its central feature of reason, both inside and outside ofeducational philosophy. Central ideas from Jonathan and Hirst contributeas do those from Rawls, Gadamer, Wittgenstein, Taylor, and Ackermantoward a less traditional contextualized and contingent view.
Twenty-five years after the term "therapeutic misconception’ (TM) first entered the literature, most commentators agree that it remains widespread. However, the majority of scholarly attention has focused on the reasons why a patient cum human subject might confuse the goals of research with the goals of therapy. Although this paper addresses the social and cultural factors that seem to animate the TM among subjects, it also fills a niche in the literature by examining why investigators too might operate under a (...) similar confusion. In framing these issues, the paper expressly adopts a Wittgensteinian approach to evaluating the TM, suggesting that interlocutors do not need any analytic definition of the TM to use the term meaningfully in thinking about the moral implications of the TM in practice. (shrink)
The concept of representation is a problematic one. So is that of resemblance or similarity. But both concepts can be clarified via a modification of Wittgenstein's notion of a "family-resemblance." I shall introduce an extended version of that notion, specifically relevant to representational objects, after presenting some arguments which show the need for it.
Slurs possess interesting linguistic properties and so have recently attracted the attention of linguists and philosophers of language. For instance the racial slur "nigger" is explosively derogatory, enough so that just hearing it mentioned can leave one feeling as if they have been made complicit in a morally atrocious act.. Indeed, the very taboo nature of these words makes discussion of them typically prohibited or frowned upon. Although it is true that the utterance of slurs is illegitimate and derogatory in (...) most contexts, sufficient evidence suggests that slurs are not always or exclusively used to derogate. In fact, slurs are frequently picked up and appropriated by the very in-group members that the slur was originally intended to target. This might be done, for instance, as a means for like speakers to strengthen in-group solidarity. So an investigation into the meaning and use of slurs can give us crucial insight into how words can be used with such derogatory impact, and how they can be turned around and appropriated as vehicles of rapport in certain contexts among in-group speakers. In this essay I will argue that slurs are best characterized as being of a mixed descriptive/expressive type. Next, I will review the most influential accounts of slurs offered thus far, explain their shortcomings, then provide a new analysis of slurs and explain in what ways it is superior to others. Finally, I suggest that a family-resemblance conception of category membership can help us achieve a clearer understanding of the various ways in which slurs, for better or worse, are actually put to use in natural language discourse. (shrink)
This article provides an original account of slurs and how they may be differentially used by in-group and out-group speakers. Slurs are first distinguished from other terms and their role in social interaction is discussed. A new distinction is introduced between three different uses of slurs : the paradigmatic derogatory use, non-paradigmatic derogatory use, and non-paradigmatic non-derogatory use. I then account for their literal meaning and explain how a family-resemblance conception of category membership can clarify our understanding of (...) the various natural-language uses of slurs, -. The focus is restricted primarily to race-based and sex-based slurs used in the context of English speakers, and the article concludes with desiderata to be met by any subsequent analyses of slurs. (shrink)
Comparison is fundamental to the practice and subject-matter of philosophy, but has received scant attention by philosophers. This is even so in “comparative philosophy,” which literally distinguishes itself from other philosophy by being “comparative.” In this article, the need for a philosophy of comparison is suggested. What we compare with what, and in what respect it is done, poses a series of intriguing and intricate questions. In Part One, I offer a problematization of the tertium comparationis (the third of comparison) (...) by examining conceptualizations of similarity, familyresemblance, and analogy, which it is sometimes argued can do without a tertium comparationis. In Part Two, I argue that a third of comparison is already required to determine what is to be compared, and insofar as that determination precedes the comparison that tertium may be called “pre-comparative.” This leads me to argue against incomparability and to show how anything can indeed be compared to anything. In Part Three, I relate my arguments to what is today commonly labelled “comparative philosophy.” Finally, I raise some questions of ontology and politics in order to demonstrate the relevance of a philosophy of comparison. (shrink)
Any biological species of biparental organisms necessarily includes, and is fundamentally dependent on, sign processes between individuals. In this case, the natural category of the species is based on family resemblances, which is why a species is not a natural kind. We describe the mechanism that generates the familyresemblance. An individual recognition window and biparental reproduction almost suffice as conditions to produce species naturally. This is due to assortativity of mating which is not based on certain (...) individual traits, but on the difference between individuals. The biosemiotic model described here explains what holds a species together. It also implies that boundaries of a species are fundamentally fuzzy, and that character displacement occurs in case of sympatry. Speciation is a special case of discretisation that is an inevitable result of any communication system in work. The biosemiotic mechanism provides the conditions and communicative restrictions for the origin and persistence of diversity in the realm of living systems. (shrink)
This article first surveys the established views on Wittgenstein's relation to analytic philosophy. Next it distinguishes among different ways of defining analytic philosophy—topical, doctrinal, methodological, stylistic, historical, and the idea that it is a family-resemblance concept. It argues that while certain stylistic features are important, the historical and the family-resemblance conceptions are the most auspicious, especially in combination. The answer to the title question is given in section 3. Contrary to currently popular “irrationalist” interpretations, Wittgenstein was (...) an analytic philosopher in all phases of his career, albeit an exceedingly exotic one whose style transcends the limits of academic philosophy in general. On the historical understanding he qualifies because he was influenced by and in turn influenced mainly analytic philosophers. On the family-resemblance conception he qualifies both because he developed and employed logico-linguistic analysis and because he initiated the linguistic turn and the distinction between philosophy and science that characterizes one important strand in analytic philosophy. (shrink)
The category WOMEN is a central analytic category of feminism, but has been very troubled in feminist theory and philosophy. In the background of the troubles with the category WOMEN is the metaphoric image of a social category as a set and its exemplars as set members. But the category WOMEN cannot be defined as sets are defined, so that is an inappropriate metaphor. A number of feminists and race theorists turn to Wittgenstein, who offers alternative metaphors. This chapter explores (...) the powers and resonances of his metaphors—in the case of “familyresemblance,” using the work of cognitive psychologists Rosch and Mervis on categories that have prototype structure. (shrink)
This book argues that critics of consequentialism have not been able to make a successful and comprehensive case against all versions of consequentialism because they have been using the wrong methodology. This methodology relies on the crucial assumption that consequentialist theories share a defining characteristic. This text interprets consequentialism, instead, as a familyresemblance term. On that basis, it argues quite an ambitions claim, viz. that all versions of consequentialism should be rejected, including those that have been created (...) in response to conventional criticisms. The book covers a number of classic themes in normative ethics, metaethics and, particularly, ethical methodology and also touches upon certain aspects of experimental moral philosophy. It is written in clear language and is analytic in its argumentative style. As such, the book should appeal to students, graduate students as well as professional academics with an interest in analytic moral philosophy. (shrink)
This article offers a detailed textual reexamination of the ‘familyresemblance’ passages to reconsider their implications for understanding art. The reassessment takes into account their broader context in the Philosophical Investigations, including the rule following considerations, and draws on a realist interpretive framework associated principally with the work of Cavell, Diamond, McDowell, and Putnam. Wittgensteinian “realism with a human face” helps us discern that the primary issue is not whether certain concepts are definable, posing a stark opposition between (...) essentialism and its denial about kinds such as language or games. What is at issue is keeping uses of language in view in their variety and their broader life contexts. Focus on rules suggests more broadly that norms and values inhere in practices and play a constitutive role in determining the entities integral to those practices. From this perspective, a Wittgensteinian framework explains art as locally overlapping practices, each with their own constitutive norms and values for the works integral to them. What makes something art has normative force specific to a practice. This recognizes the historically contingent nature of art practices in a way that relational definitions or disjunctive ‘cluster’ explanations do not. (shrink)