On the Intractable ontology of Species

Keywords: Ontology, Species, Monism, Pluralism, Realism, Antirealism, Intractability


‘Species’ is a tricky, but unavoidable term which makes biologists disagree with each other in their attempts to define it. The disagreement actually stems from the intractable ontological nature of species. Not only biologists but also philosophers are engaged in the endeavour to understand species. The former attempt to define species while the latter try to determine its ontology. As a result, antinomies such as monism/pluralism or realism/antirealism come into the picture. Our sense of ‘intractability’ grows along with the increasing debate between these antinomies. The present paper sketches out the intractable nature of species through a historical account of the species problem. Through this paper, we have tried to decipher a ‘common thread’ that, perhaps, binds all our ideas of species together. This has been arrived at after noticing that when we confront the term species we all know what it refers to but we are confused when it comes to answering the question ‘what it means’.

DOI: 10.5958/2347-6869.2017.00020.6


Aldhebiani, A. Y. (2017) Species Concept and Speciation. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. sjbs.2017.04.013.
Boyd, R. (1999). Homeostasis, species, and higher taxa.
Burkhardt, R. W. (2013). Lamarck, evolution, and the inheritance of acquired characters. Genetics, 194(4), 793-805.
Chakravartty, A. (2007). A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Chakravartty, A. (2017). Scientific Realism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Edward N Zalta, Ed.) https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/scientific-realism/.
Darwin, C. (1859).On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray.
de Candolle, A. P. (1813). Théorie élémentaire de la botanique. Deterviile.
Dupre, J. (1993). The Disorder of Things Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. USA: Harvard University Press.
Ereshefsky, M. (1998). Species pluralism and anti-realism. Philosophy of Science, 65(1), 103-120.Ereshefsky, M. (2010). Darwin’s solution to the species problem. Synthese, 175(3), 405-425. .
Farber, P. L. (1972). Buffon and the Concept of Species. Journal of the History of Biology 5 (2), 259-284.
Galera, A. (2017). The Impact of Lamarck’s Theory of Evolution before Darwin’s Theory. Journal of the History of Biology 50, 53-70.
Ghiselin, M. T. (1974). A Radical Solution to the Species Problem. Systematic Zoology 23 (4), 536-544.
Hull, D. L. (1976). Are Species Really Individuals? Systematic Zoology 25 (2), 174-191.
Ray, J. (1686). Historia Generalis Plantarum. Londra
Kitcher, P. (1984a). Against the Monism of the Moment: A Reply to Elliot Sober. Philosophy of Science 51, 616-630.
Kitcher, P. (1984b). Species. Philosophy of Science 51 (2), 308-333.
LaPorte, J. (2006). Species as Relations: Examining a New Proposal. Biology and Philosophy 21, 381-393.
Mayr, E. (1961). Cause and Effect in Biology. Science 134 (3489), 1501-1506.
Mayr, E. (1996). What is a Species, and What is not? Philosophy of Science 63, 262-277.
Mishler, B. D., Brandon, R. N. (1987). Individuality, Pluralism and the Phylogenetic Species Concept. Biology and Philosophy 2, 397-414.
Mishler, B. D., Donoghue, M. J. (1982). Species Concepts: A Case for Pluralism. Systematic Zoology 31 (4), 491-503.
Ruse, M. (2013). Charles Robert Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace: Their Dispute over the Units of Selection. Theory in Bioscience 132, 215-224.
Stamos, D. N. (1999) Darwin’s Species Category Realism. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 21 (2), 137-186.
Stamos, D. N. (2007). Darwin and the Nature of Species. USA: State University of New York press.
Stanford, K. P (1995). For Pluralism and against Realism about Species. Philosophy of Science 62 (1), 70-91.
Wilkins, J. S. (2006). Species, Kinds, and Evolution. Reports of NCSE 26(4), https://ncse.com/library-resource/species-kinds-evolution.
Wilkins, J. S. (2010). What is Species? Essences and Generation. Theory in Biosciences 129, 141-18
On the Intractable ontology of Species
How to Cite
Hareesh, G. A., & Upendra, C. (2018). On the Intractable ontology of Species. SOCRATES, 5(3 and 4), 29-39. Retrieved from https://www.socratesjournal.com/index.php/SOCRATES/article/view/308