[SydPhil] Reminder HPS Research Seminar today - Michael Devitt -HISTORICAL BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM
debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
Mon Apr 10 09:26:26 AEST 2017
THE UNIT FOR HISTORY
Held in conjunction with the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science
RESEARCH SEMINAR SERIES
MONDAY 10th April 2017
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
The Graduate Centre
The City University of New York.
HISTORICAL BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM
The consensus in the philosophy of biology is that a taxon’s essence or nature is wholly historical. In “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008), I rejected this consensus in arguing that there is an intrinsic component to the essence. Still I accepted that there was also an historical component. But why believe that there is? This paper begins with an argument, drawing on the literature, that this component is required by historical/evolutionary explanations. But most of the paper is concerned with another question. What precisely is this historical component? An answer must be complete in that it distinguishes one taxon from another; for example, zebras from horses. An answer must be plausible in that posits an essence that can bear the explanatory burden. Despite asking around, I have been surprisingly unable to find a worked out complete and plausible answer in the literature. I go on to propose one: the relevant history of a taxon is of organisms of a certain intrinsic kind evolving into organisms of a certain other intrinsic kind, until we reach the taxon in question. The consensus is right that there is an historical component to the essence of a taxon but that component requires that there also be an intrinsic component.
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