Does the anti-essentialist consensus about species rest on a mistake?

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A long-established consensus in the philosophy of biology holds that biological species are not natural kinds with intrinsic essences, despite what Putnam (1975) and Kripke (1980) thought. This anti-essentialist consensus has recently been challenged by Michael Devitt, who insists that it rests on a mistake. According to Devitt, philosophers of biology have failed to recognise the distinction between two quite different questions one can ask two questions about species: the Category question and the Taxon question. The various ‘species concepts’ found in the biological literature are attempts to answer the former but are silent about the latter, Devitt claims, so do not conflict with essentialism, pace what philosophers of biology believe. By carefully attending to the logical relation between the Category and Taxon questions, Devitt’s claim that the anti-essentialist consensus rests on a mistake is shown to be untenable
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Nov 2023


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