[SydPhil] MQ Philosophy Seminar: Michael Devitt (CUNY)

Rachael Brown rachael.brown at mq.edu.au
Wed Nov 18 11:13:02 AEDT 2015

*Please note the following upcoming event as part of the Macquarie
University Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series:*
*Individual Essentialism in Biology*

*Michael Devitt (City University of New York)*

*Date: Tuesday, 24th NovemberTime: 13:00 - 14:00Venue: W3A 501 (Blackshield

According to LaPorte (1998), Levine (2001), and Okasha (2002), the received
view is that an organism is not essentially a member of any taxon that it
is a member of. They go on to argue for the received view. I think that
this view is mostly false and that these arguments are mostly poor. The
received view raises two essentialism issues. (1) What property of an
organism is essential for it being a member of a given taxon? This is an
issue of taxon essentialism. (2) What property of an organism is essential
for it being that very organism? This is as issue of individual
essentialism. Clearly, answers to these two questions will settle the
matter of essential membership. The consensus on (1) is that the essential
property is historical. In “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008), I
go along with this historical component but go against the consensus in
arguing that there is also an intrinsic component to a taxon’s essence. The
present paper explores the nature of the historical component, arguing that
it seems to require that a taxon has an intrinsic component. The paper
argues that the explanatory concerns of biology support a Kripkean answer
to (2): an individual’ essence is part historical, part intrinsic. Against
this background the paper looks critically at the arguments for the
received view on essential membership.

(The received view has recently had a lot of attention in Biology and
Philosophy as a result of Levine’s argument that the view, when applied to
species, is in conflict with the common biological thesis that any organism
selected as the type specimen for a species is necessarily a member of that
species. I think this thesis about type specimen is derived from mistaken
views of reference and is quite wrong.)

Contact: Rachael Brown (rachael.brown at mq.edu.au), Adam Hochman (
adam.hochman at mq.edu.au) or Mike Olson (michael.olson at mq.edu.au)

A google calendar with details of other events in this series is available
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