•  502
    What's Wrong with the New Biological Essentialism
    Philosophy of Science 77 (5): 674-685. 2010.
    The received view in the philosophy of biology is that biological taxa (species and higher taxa) do not have essences. Recently, some philosophers (Boyd, Devitt, Griffiths, LaPorte, Okasha, and Wilson) have suggested new forms of biological essentialism. They argue that according to these new forms of essentialism, biological taxa do have essences. This article critically evaluates the new biological essentialism. This article’s thesis is that the costs of adopting the new biological essentialism…Read more
  •  384
    Species pluralism and anti-realism
    Philosophy of Science 65 (1): 103-120. 1998.
    Species pluralism gives us reason to doubt the existence of the species category. The problem is not that species concepts are chosen according to our interests or that pluralism and the desire for hierarchical classifications are incompatible. The problem is that the various taxa we call 'species' lack a common unifying feature
  •  337
    Darwin’s solution to the species problem
    Synthese 175 (3). 2010.
    Biologists and philosophers that debate the existence of the species category fall into two camps. Some believe that the species category does not exist and the term 'species' should be eliminated from biology. Others believe that with new biological insights or the application of philosophical ideas, we can be confident that the species category exists. This paper offers a different approach to the species problem. We should be skeptical of the species category, but not skeptical of the existen…Read more
  •  319
    Eliminative pluralism
    Philosophy of Science 59 (4): 671-690. 1992.
    This paper takes up the cause of species pluralism. An argument for species pluralism is provided and standard monist objections to pluralism are answered. A new form of species pluralism is developed and shown to be an improvement over previous forms. This paper also offers a general foundation on which to base a pluralistic approach to biological classification
  •  249
    Some problems with the linnaean hierarchy
    Philosophy of Science 61 (2): 186-205. 1994.
    Most biologists use the Linnaean system for constructing classifications of the organic world. The Linnaean system, however, has lost its theoretical basis due to the shift in biology from creationist and essentialist tenets to evolutionary theory. As a result, the Linnaean system is both cumbersome and ontologically vacuous. This paper illustrates the problems facing the Linnaean system, and ends with a brief introduction to an alternative approach to biological classification
  •  202
    In her "Species Are Individuals" (1985), Mary Williams offers informal arguments and a sketched proof which allegedly show that species are individuals with respect to evolutionary theory. In this paper, I suggest that her informal arguments are insufficient for showing that clans are not sets and that species are individuals. I also argue that her sketched proof depends on three questionable assumptions
  •  172
    Where the wild things are: environmental preservation and human nature
    Biology and Philosophy 22 (1): 57-72. 2007.
    Environmental philosophers spend considerable time drawing the divide between humans and the rest of nature. Some argue that humans and our actions are unnatural. Others allow that humans are natural, but maintain that humans are nevertheless distinct. The motivation for distinguishing humans from the rest of nature is the desire to determine what aspects of the environment should be preserved. The standard view is that we should preserve those aspects of the environment outside of humans and ou…Read more
  •  166
    Microbiology and the species problem
    Biology and Philosophy 25 (4): 553-568. 2010.
    This paper examines the species problem in microbiology and its implications for the species problem more generally. Given the different meanings of ‘species’ in microbiology, the use of ‘species’ in biology is more multifarious and problematic than commonly recognized. So much so, that recent work in microbial systematics casts doubt on the existence of a prokaryote species category in nature. It also casts doubt on the existence of a general species category for all of life (one that includes …Read more
  •  144
    Psychological categories as homologies: lessons from ethology
    Biology and Philosophy 22 (5): 659-674. 2007.
    Biology and Philosophy, forthcoming 2007.
  •  125
    Bridging the gap between human kinds and biological kinds
    Philosophy of Science 71 (5): 912-921. 2004.
    Many writers claim that human kinds are significantly different from biological and natural kinds. Some suggest that humans kinds are unique because social structures are essential for the etiology of human kinds. Others argue that human cultural evolution is decidedly different from other forms of evolution. In this paper I suggest that the gulf between humans and our biological relatives is not as wide as some argue. There is a taxonomic difference between human and nonhuman organisms, but suc…Read more
  •  111
    Species, higher taxa, and the units of evolution
    Philosophy of Science 58 (1): 84-101. 1991.
    A number of authors argue that while species are evolutionary units, individuals and real entities, higher taxa are not. I argue that drawing the divide between species and higher taxa along such lines has not been successful. Common conceptions of evolutionary units either include or exclude both types of taxa. Most species, like all higher taxa, are not individuals, but historical entities. Furthermore, higher taxa are neither more nor less real than species. None of this implies that there is…Read more
  •  92
    Homology: Integrating Phylogeny and Development
    Biological Theory 4 (3): 225-229. 2009.
  •  91
    Linnaean ranks: Vestiges of a bygone era
    Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3). 2002.
    We tend to think that there are different types of biological taxa: some taxa are species, others are genera, while others are families. Linnaeus gave us his ranks in 1731. Biological theory has changed since Linnaeus’s time. Nevertheless, the vast majority of biologists still assign Linnaean ranks to taxa, even though that practice is at odds with evolutionary theory and even though it causes a number of practical problems. The Linnaean ranks should be abandoned and alternative methods for disp…Read more
  •  90
    Biological individuality: the case of biofilms
    Biology and Philosophy 28 (2): 331-349. 2013.
    This paper examines David Hull’s and Peter Godfrey-Smith’s accounts of biological individuality using the case of biofilms. Biofilms fail standard criteria for individuality, such as having reproductive bottlenecks and forming parent-offspring lineages. Nevertheless, biofilms are good candidates for individuals. The nature of biofilms shows that Godfrey-Smith’s account of individuality, with its reliance on reproduction, is too restrictive. Hull’s interactor notion of individuality better captur…Read more
  •  88
    Species, Historicity, and Path Dependency
    Philosophy of Science 81 (5): 714-726. 2014.
    This paper clarifies the historical nature of species by showing that species are path-dependent entities. A species’ identity is not determined by its intrinsic properties or its origin, but by its unique evolutionary path. Seeing that species are path-dependent entities has three implications: it shows that origin essentialism is mistaken, it rebuts two challenges to the species-are-historical-entities thesis, and it demonstrates that the identity of a species during speciation depends on futu…Read more
  •  79
    Species, taxonomy, and systematics
    In Michael Ruse (ed.), Philosophy of Biology, Prometheus Books. pp. 403--428. 2007.
  •  70
    Homology thinking
    Biology and Philosophy 27 (3): 381-400. 2012.
    This paper explores an important type of biological explanation called ‘homology thinking.’ Homology thinking explains the properties of a homologue by citing the history of a homologue. Homology thinking is significant in several ways. First, it offers more detailed explanations of biological phenomena than corresponding analogy explanations. Second, it provides an important explanation of character similarity and difference. Third, homology thinking offers a promising account of multiple reali…Read more
  •  69
    Darwin offered an intriguing answer to the species problem. He doubted the existence of the species category as a real category in nature, but he did not doubt the existence of those taxa called ‘‘species’’. And despite his scepticism of the species category, Darwin continued using the word ‘‘species’’. Many have said that Darwin did not understand the nature of species. Yet his answer to the species problem is both theoretically sound and practical. On the theoretical side, DarwinÕs answer is co…Read more
  •  68
    The semantic approach to evolutionary theory
    Biology and Philosophy 6 (1): 59-80. 1991.
    Paul Thompson, John Beatty, and Elisabeth Lloyd argue that attempts to resolve certain conceptual issues within evolutionary biology have failed because of a general adherence to the received view of scientific theories. They maintain that such issues can be clarified and resolved when one adopts a semantic approach to theories. In this paper, I argue that such conceptual issues are just as problematic on a semantic approach. Such issues arise from the complexity involved in providing formal acc…Read more
  •  55
    To cite this Article: Ereshefsky, Marc , 'Foundational Issues Concerning Taxa and Taxon Names', Systematic Biology, 56:2, 295 - 301 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/10635150701317401 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10635150701317401..
  •  47
    Names, numbers and indentations: A guide to post-linnaean taxonomy
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (2): 361-383. 2001.
    The vast majority of biological taxonomists use the Linnaean system when constructing classifications. Taxa are assigned Linnaean ranks and taxon names are devised according to the Linnaean rules of nomenclature. Unfortunately, the Linnaean system has become theoretically outdated. Moreover, its continued use causes a number of practical problems. This paper begins by sketching the ontological and practical problems facing the Linnaean system. Those problems are sufficiently pressing that altern…Read more
  •  46
    The evolution of the linnaean hierarchy
    Biology and Philosophy 12 (4): 493-519. 1997.
    The Linnaean system of classification is a threefold system of theoretical assumptions, sorting rules, and rules of nomenclature. Over time, that system has lost its theoretical assumptions as well as its sorting rules. Cladistic revisions have left it less and less Linnaean. And what remains of the system is flawed on pragmatic grounds. Taking all of this into account, it is time to consider alternative systems of classification.
  •  45
    The question of whether biologists should continue to use the Linnaean hierarchy has been a hotly debated issue. Invented before the introduction of evolutionary theory, Linnaeus's system of classifying organisms is based on outdated theoretical assumptions, and is thought to be unable to provide accurate biological classifications. Marc Ereshefsky argues that biologists should abandon the Linnaean system and adopt an alternative that is more in line with evolutionary theory. He traces the evolu…Read more
  •  33
    Individuality and Macroevolutionary Theory
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988. 1988.
    A number of authors have argued that the thesis that species are individuals has important implications for macroevolutionary theory. More specifically, some authors claim that the thesis lends support to the Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium and indicates the existence of species selection. In this paper, I argue that the alleged individuality of species is neither necessary nor sufficient for the truth of that theory or for the existence of species selection. I also argue, contrary to the claim…Read more
  •  32
    Natural Kinds, Mind Independence, and Defeasibility
    Philosophy of Science 85 (5): 845-856. 2018.
    A standard requirement on natural kinds is that they be mind independent. However, many kinds in the human and social sciences, even the natural sciences, depend on human thought. This article suggests that the mind independence requirement on natural kinds be replaced with the requirement that natural kind classifications be defeasible. The defeasibility requirement does not require that natural kinds be mind independent, so it does not exclude mind dependent scientific kinds from being natural…Read more
  •  28
    Pluralism, Normative Naturalism, and Biological Taxonomy
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994 382-389. 1994.
    Several authors have argued for taxonomic pluralism in biology -the position that there is a plurality of equally legitimate classifications of the organic world. Others have objected that such pluralism boils down to a position of anything goes. This paper offers a response to the anything goes objection by showing how one can be a discerning pluralist. In particular, methodological standards for choosing taxonomic projects are derived using Laudan's normative naturalism. This paper also sheds …Read more
  •  25
    Names, numbers and indentations: a guide to post-Linnaean taxonomy
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (2): 361-383. 2001.