Article ID: CBB872058525

Kant, Linnaeus, and the economy of nature (2020)


Ecology arguably has roots in eighteenth-century natural histories, such as Linnaeus's economy of nature, which pressed a case for holistic and final-causal explanations of organisms in terms of what we'd now call their environment. After sketching Kant's arguments for the indispensability of final-causal explanation merely in the case of individual organisms, and considering the Linnaean alternative, this paper examines Kant's critical response to Linnaean ideas. I argue that Kant does not explicitly reject Linnaeus's holism. But he maintains that the indispensability of final-causal explanation depends on robust modal connections between types of organism and their functional parts; relationships in Linnaeus's economy of nature, by contrast, are relatively contingent. Kant's framework avoids strong metaphysical assumptions, is responsive to empirical evidence, and can be fruitfully compared with some contemporary approaches to biological organization.

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Authors & Contributors
Zammito, John H.
Short, T. L.
Ariew, André
Koons, Robert C.
Kreines, James
Richards, Robert John
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
Journal of the History of Biology
Science and Education
Foundations of Science
Oxford University Press
de Gruyter
Philosophy of biology
Kant, Immanuel
Blumenbach, Johann Friedrich
Darwin, Charles Robert
Mayr, Ernst
Lyell, Charles
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
20th century, late
17th century

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