Scientific essentialism in the light of classification practice in biology– a case study of phytosociology
Kubiak, Adam P.
Wodzisz, Rafał R.
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In our paper we investigate the difficulty that arises when one tries to reconsiliate essentialist’s thinking with classification practice in the biological sciences. The article outlines some varieties of essentialism with particular attention to the version defended by Brian Ellis. We underline the basic difference: Ellis thinks that essentialism is not a viable position in biology due to its incompatibility with biological typology and other essentialists think that these two elements can be reconciled. However, both parties have in common metaphysical starting point and they lack explicit track of methodological procedures. Methodological inquiry involves less demanding assumptions than metaphysical, and therefore it is justified to analyse abovementioned discrepancy between Ellis and other essentialist in this context. We do it by bottom-up investigation which focuses on the practice of taxonomists in the particular field of biology. A case study helps us to discover four characteristics of biological typology practice: impossibility of algorithmization, relativity, subjectivity and conventionality. These features prove non-realistic and therefore anti-essentialistic character of biological classification. We conclude by saying that any essentialism related to the notion of biological kind cannot be regarded as justified by scientific enterprise of creating typologies.
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