Prototypical Reasoning About Species and the Species Problem

Biological Theory 10 (4):289-300 (2015)
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The species problem is often described as the abundance of conflicting definitions of _species_, such as the biological species concept and phylogenetic species concepts. But biologists understand the notion of species in a non-definitional as well as a definitional way. In this article I argue that when they understand _species_ without a definition in their mind, their understanding is often mediated by the notion of _good species_, or prototypical species, as the idea of ``prototype'' is explicated in cognitive psychology. This distinction helps us make sense of several puzzling phenomena regarding biologists' dealing with species, such as the fact that in everyday research biologists often behave as if the species problem is solved, while they should be fully aware that it is not. I also briefly discuss implications of this finding, including that some extant attempts to answer what the nature of species is have an inadequate assumption about how the notion of species is represented in biologists' minds.

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Yuichi Amitani
University of Pittsburgh


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