Kirk Fitzhugh kfitzhug at NHM.ORG
Sun Apr 13 15:25:38 CDT 2003

René Zaragüeta Bagils,

The subject of characters, or properties, of objects has been widely 
discussed in the philosophical literature. You might find it helpful to 
move beyond the somewhat limited and often peculiar ideas which have been 
developed in systematics. I can suggest the following as good introductions:

Hanson, N.R. 1958. Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into the Conceptual 
Foundations of Science. Cambridge University Press.

Strawson, P.F. 1959. Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics. 
Routledge, London.

Armstrong, D.M. 1989. Universals: An Opinionated Introduction. Westview Press.

Armstrong, D.M. 1997. A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge University Press.

Mahner, M. and M. Bunge. 1997. Foundations of Biophilosophy. Springer-Verlag.

Mellor, D.H. and A. Oliver (eds.). 1997. Properties. Oxford University Press.

Good luck,

> >Dear Dr. Colless,
> >
> >if you are refering to me as the one discussant, this is what I think :
> >
> >Characters = classificatory concepts that partition (hierarchically) a
> >population on instances and non-instances of the character. Charatcer =
> >homology = synapomorphy.
> >Multi-state character: a character comopsed of paralog characters (that is,
> >a concept composed of concepts).
> >Taxon: an ensemble of characters (because cladistic analysis is analysis,
> >and parts are characters).
> >
> >All these definitions are not mine (most are from Nelson, 1994, Homology and
> >systematics in the book edited by Hall ; others come from Lebbe, 1991, etc.)
> >
> >When you say "character" = "part", it seems you think of a part as being
> >"real", in an atomistic sense. When I wrote "part" I meant description of a
> >part of an organism, that is, a sub-concept of a more inclusive concept.
> >Do you mean that from your viewpoint characters and taxa are real, in an
> >essentiallistic sense? This gives sense to your citation of Russell. I have
> >never talked of taxa as objects, and I have rarely heard about such a
> >conception. But to conceive a hierarchy of concepts has nothing to do with
> >this. (Russell could hardly deny that there are hierarchies of concepts in
> >Mathematics, I guess).
> >I guess that you don't agree with the common idea of characters as theories
> >(= concepts)?
> >I agree with the conception that characters = theories. Scales (a character,
> >a concept) is paraphyletic if it does not include feathers, as reptiles are
> >paraphyletic if they do not include birds.
> >Characters defining paraphyletic taxa are paraphyletic, I don't see why this
> >should be a problem, and why "paraphyletic" should be applied to more or
> >less inclusive concepts only.
> >
> >
> >René Zaragüeta Bagils
> >Département Histoire de la Terre UMR 8569
> >Equipe SICC (Systématique, Informatique, Cladistique et Chronologie)
> >Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle
> >8 rue Buffon
> >75005 Paris - France
> >
> >
> >

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