on intellectual genealogies

P. F. Stevens peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG
Thu May 13 09:09:58 CDT 1999


Taking up a comment by Grehan, I would recommend Craw's paper (presumably
his "Margins of cladistics: Identity difference and place in the emergence
of cladistics, 1864-1975", in P. Griffiths (ed.) "Trees of Life: Essays in
the Philosophy of Biology", pp. 65-107, 1992).

What struck me, reading some of the sources mentioned by Craw, and
following the paper trails that they started, how different the goals of
some of the people he mentioned were.  For instance, some of the trees
produced were very symmetrical, with the "ancestor" representing the
straight line up the middle, branches coming off equally on either side -
the author seems to have had a preconceived idea of the "shape of nature".
In other cases, it was difficult to get the tree from the matrix of
characters presented; again, one wonders about how the author "saw"
relationships.  I think a close study of tree diagrams, especially those
from around the turn of the last century, would be of more than slight
interest.

But as to ancestry, I am reminded of a sentence by one of the Candolles
from the last century to the efect that nothing is so difficult as
detecting the link between ideas.

Peter S.




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