Are species life forms?

This is a section of my forthcoming revision to Species, presented here for comments that I can steal – umm, I mean for peer commentary. The philosophical ideas and terms of Wittgenstein have played an interesting and underappreciated role in the species debate: we saw Beckner appeal to family resemblance predicates, and Pigliucci revive that, Read More…

A nineteenth century view on classification

The principle upon which I understand the Natural System of Botany to be founded is, that the affinities of plants may be determined by a consideration of all the points of resemblance between their various parts, properties, and qualities; that thence an arrangement may be deduced in which those species will be placed next each Read More…

Speciation – A brief history: The late eighteenth century

After Linnaeus had settled on the older mechanism of hybridisation of genera with other genera or with varieties formed by geographical conditions as the cause of new species, the topic began to pick up speed. Hybridisation remained the usual method as late as the 1830s (e.g., in Lindley) but two developments were crucial in the Read More…

Speciation – a brief history: Linnaeus

One of the fundamental aspects of evolution is speciation. This is the process by which more species come into being, and there are many different definitions and mechanisms that have been proposed by biologists in the last couple of centuries. I aim to write an occasional series on what it is supposed to be at Read More…

Books I am reading/reviewing

Despite marking scores of essays, after having taught a subject intensive, and preparing various papers, I get to review some books. This means reading them, familiarising myself with the technical literature, and so on. So I thought I’d do a brief summary of them for you now: The first is this: M. A. Khalidi, Natural Categories Read More…

Natural classification

It occurs to me that I haven’t plugged my own book here. What a failure on my part! It was published in December, so it is really time I did so. In this book, Malte Ebach and I discuss a topic not often discussed in the philosophy of science: the classification of nature in the Read More…

Does life exist?

Life, I believe, is what physics does on one particular planet on a Wednesday. More exactly, it is a series of chemical and physical dynamics that occurs between 3.85 billion years ago and now on this planet. Ferris Jabr, an editor at the Scientific American site, has a piece entitled “Why Life Does Not Really Exist”, Read More…

My book is published

See the book at the right entitled The Nature of Classification? According to the website you go to when you click on the cover, it has now been published. I haven’t seen a copy yet, but I’m hopeful… anyway, there’s your stocking filler for the philosopher of science in your life.

Are species theoretical objects?

[Note: this is a paper that has sat in my drawer for a while now. I am posting it to follow from my last post on the theological origins of species. If species are not ranks in biology, what are they?] It is often claimed that species are the units of evolution, but this is Read More…

Articles of faith: The theological and philosophical origins of the concept of species

It takes a while for the implications of one’s own work to sink in. In my 2009 book Species, a History of the Idea (see here), I argued that the notion that before Darwin people were essentialistic and fixist about species was false. A recent paper by Jack Powers about Mayr’s misreading of Plato complements an earlier Read More…