Naming and contingency: the type method of biological taxonomy

Biology and Philosophy 30 (4):569-586 (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Biological taxonomists rely on the so-called ‘type method’ to regulate taxonomic nomenclature. For each newfound taxon, they lay down a ‘type specimen’ that carries with it the name of the taxon it belongs to. Even if a taxon’s circumscription is unknown and/or subject to change, it remains a necessary truth that the taxon’s type specimen falls within its boundaries. Philosophers have noted some time ago that this naming practice is in line with the causal theory of reference and its central notion of rigid designation: a type specimen fixes the reference of a taxon name without defining it. Recently, however, this consensus has come under pressure in the pages of this journal. In a series of articles by Alex Levine, Joseph LaPorte, and Matthew Haber, it has been argued that type specimens belong only contingently to their species, and that this may bode problems for the relation between type method and causal theory. I will argue that this ‘contingency debate’ is a debate gone wrong, and that none of the arguments in defense of contingency withstand scrutiny. Taxonomic naming is not out of step with the causal theory, but conforms to it. However, I will also argue that this observation is itself in need of further explanation, since application of the type method in taxonomic practice is plagued by errors and ambiguities that threaten it with breaking down. Thus, the real question becomes why taxonomic naming conforms to the causal theory in the first place. I will show that the answer lies in the embedding of the type method into elaborate codes of nomenclature

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,098

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Analytics

Added to PP
2014-07-18

Downloads
182 (#111,918)

6 months
18 (#152,778)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Joeri Witteveen
University of Copenhagen

References found in this work

Naming and Necessity: Lectures Given to the Princeton University Philosophy Colloquium.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Edited by Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel.
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Naming and necessity.Saul A. Kripke - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Arguing about language. New York: Routledge. pp. 431-433.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
Naming and Necessity.S. Kripke - 1972 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (4):665-666.

View all 18 references / Add more references