Essential Membership
LaPorte (Joseph)
Source: Philosophy of Science 64, No. 1. (Mar., 1997), pp. 96-112
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Philosophers Index Abstract

    In this paper I take issue with the doctrine that organisms belong of their very essence to the natural kinds1 (or biological taxa, if these are not kinds) to which they belong. This view holds that any human essentially belongs to the species Homo sapiens, any feline essentially belongs to the cat family, and so on. I survey the various competing views in biological systematics. These offer different explanations for what it is that makes a member of one species, family, etc., a member of that taxon. Unfortunately, none of them offers an explanation that is compatible with the essentialism in question. (PI / JSTOR): In this paper I take issue with the doctrine that organisms belong of their very essence to the natural kinds2 (or biological taxa, if these are not kinds) to which they belong. This view holds that any human essentially belongs to the species Homo sapiens, any feline essentially belongs to the cat family, and so on. I survey the various competing views in biological systematics. These offer different explanations for what it is that makes a member of one species, family, etc. a member of that taxon. Unfortunately, none of them offers an explanation that is compatible with the essentialism in question.

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