Article ID: CBB000770724

Generalizations and Kinds in Natural Science: The Case of Species (2006)


Species in biology are traditionally perceived as kinds of organisms about which explanatory and predictive generalizations can be made, and biologists commonly use species in this manner. This perception of species is, however, in stark contrast with the currently accepted view that species are not kinds or classes at all, but individuals. In this paper I investigate the conditions under which the two views of species might be held simultaneously. Specifically, I ask whether upon acceptance of an ontology of species as diachronic segments of the tree of life (this is one version of the species as individuals ontology) species can perform the epistemic role of kinds of organisms to which explanatory and predictive generalizations apply. I show that, for species-level segments of the tree of life, several requirements have to be met before the performance of this epistemic role is possible, and I argue that these requirements can be met by defining species according to the Composite Species Concept proposed by Kornet and McAllister in the 1990s.

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Authors & Contributors
Wilkins, John
Cheung, Tobias
McOuat, Gordon
Cain, Joe
LaPorte, Joseph
Reydon, Thomas A. C.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
British Journal for the History of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Science in Context
American Quarterly
University of California Press
University of Pittsburgh
University of Chicago Press
Species concept (biology)
Fundamental concepts
Classification in biology
Philosophy of biology
Kant, Immanuel
Darwin, Charles Robert
Gray, John Edward
Franz, Wolfgang
Bordeu, Théophile de
Stahl, Georg Ernst
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, late
17th century
18th century
Great Britain
United States
British Museum. Natural History

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