Authors
Aleta Quinn
University of Idaho
Abstract
In this paper I sketch William Whewell’s attempts to impose order on classificatory mineralogy, which was in Whewell’s day (1794e1866) a confused science of uncertain prospects. Whewell argued that progress was impeded by the crude reductionist assumption that all macroproperties of crystals could be straightforwardly explained by reference to the crystals’ chemical constituents. By comparison with biological classification, Whewell proposed methodological reforms that he claimed would lead to a natural classification of minerals, which in turn would support advances in causal understanding of the properties of minerals. Whewell’s comparison to successful biological classification is particularly striking given that classificatory biologists did not share an understanding of the causal structure underlying the natural classification of life (the common descent with modification of all organisms). Whewell’s key proposed methodological reform is consideration of multiple, distinct principles of classification. The most powerful evidence in support of a natural classificatory claim is the consilience of claims arrived at through distinct lines of reasoning, rooted in distinct conceptual approaches to the target objects. Mineralogists must consider not only elemental composition and chemical affinities, but also symmetry and polarity. Geometrical properties are central to what makes an individual mineral the type of mineral that it is. In Whewell’s view, function and organization jointly define life, and so are the keys to understanding what makes an organism the type of organism that it is. I explain the relationship between Whewell’s teleological account of life and his natural theology. I conclude with brief comments about the importance of Whewell’s classificatory theory for the further development of his philosophy of science and in particular his account of consilience.
Keywords Whewell  Consilience  Systematics  Classification  Mineralogy
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2017.06.007
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References found in this work BETA

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Citations of this work BETA

Natural Classes in Brentano's Psychology.Arnaud Dewalque - 2018 - Brentano‐Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch der Franz Brentano Forschung 16:111-142.
William Whewell.Laura J. Snyder - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Reception of Positivism in Whewell, Mill and Brentano.Arnaud Dewalque - forthcoming - In Ion Tanasescu, Alexandru Bejinariu, Susan Krantz Gabriel & Constantin Stoenescu (eds.), Brentano and the Positive Philosophy of Comte and Mill. Berlin, Allemagne: De Gruyter.
“I would sooner die than give up”: Huxley and Darwin's deep disagreement.Mary P. Winsor - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-36.

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