Contrastive explanations in evolutionary biology

In David S. Oderberg (ed.), Classifying Reality. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 61–77 (2013)
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Taxonomists in biology have traditionally been concerned to delimit and classify actual (or previously actual) biological forms orkinds. But not all useful classification schemes are of actualisedforms. This paper focuses on the need to delimit and classifynon‐actual forms when offering contrastive explanations in evolutionary biology. Such a classification scheme sorts actual and nonfactual forms according to their modal status. Such a sorting has been offered by theoretical morphologists, but these efforts havepaid insufficient attention to the metaphysics of modality. Contemporary approaches to the metaphysics and epistemology of modalityare also found wanting. The paper ends by arguing that the needed intellectual resources are to be found in the imaginative use of Aristotle.



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Stephen Boulter
Oxford Brookes University

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