essentialism

Nico M. Franz nmf2 at CORNELL.EDU
Thu Oct 2 13:27:38 CDT 2003


In my view it is particularly unfortunate that proponents of the Phylocode
tend to ignore the only approximate relation between theory and practice in
systematics. So their analysis of classificatory theory assumes that this
theory is translated "one-to-one" into practice. This is almost never the
case in science. It is certainly not the case in systematics. The premise
that taxonomists are Aristotelian essentialists is thus incorrect. So is
the idea that the classes-individuals distinction can illuminate our
science. Useful conclusions rarely follow from poorly conceived premises.
For those interested in understanding these issues more precisely, here are
two helpful references.

1. Boyd, R.: 1999, 'Homeostasis, species, and higher taxa', in R.A. Wilson
(ed.), Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, Bradford Books, MIT Press,
Cambridge, pp. 141-185.
2. Winsor, M.P.: 2003, 'Non-essentialist Methods in Pre-Darwinian
Taxonomy'. Biology & Philosophy 18: 387-400.

Nico M. Franz
Department of Entomology
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

Phone: (607) 255-8050; Fax: (607) 255-0939; E-mail: nmf2 at cornell.edu
Website: http://www.cals.cornell.edu/dept/entomology/wheeler/Franz/Nico.html




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