Understanding scientific types: holotypes, stratotypes, and measurement prototypes

Biology and Philosophy 35 (5):1-28 (2020)
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At the intersection of taxonomy and nomenclature lies the scientific practice of typification. This practice occurs in biology with the use of holotypes (type specimens), in geology with the use of stratotypes, and in metrology with the use of measurement prototypes. In this paper I develop the first general definition of a scientific type and outline a new philosophical theory of types inspired by Pierre Duhem. I use this general framework to resolve the necessity-contingency debate about type specimens in philosophy of biology, to advance the debate over the myth of the absolute accuracy of standards in metrology, and to address the definition-correlation debate in geology. I conclude that just as there has been a productive synergy between philosophical accounts of natural kinds and scientific taxonomic practices, so too there is much to be gained from developing a deeper understanding of the practices and philosophy of scientific types.
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Archival date: 2020-09-18
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