A Conceptualist View in the Metaphysics of Species

In Richard Davies (ed.), Natural and Artifactual Objects in Contemporary Metaphysics: Exercises in Analytic Ontology. pp. 121-139 (2019)
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The species concept is one of the central concepts in biological science. Although modern systematics speculates about the existence of a complex hierarchy of nested taxa, biological species are considered particularly important for the active role they play in evolution. However, neither theoretical biologists nor philosophers of biology have come to an agreement about what a species is. In this chapter, we address two questions pertaining to biological species: (1) are they individuals or universals? and (2) are they bona fide or fiat entities? In section The Species-as-Individuals View, we illustrate the reasons that have led many scholars to support the view that species are individuals. In the next two sections, we show that the relational concepts of species – on which the species-as-individuals view is based – provide neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for species membership. This seriously undermines the species-as-individuals view. In the section A Conceptualist Model for the Metaphysics of Species, we advance the proposal that species are fiat concepts (and thus, universal entities partially dependent on the human mind) carved in a multi-dimensional space representing the properties that the biological organisms possess. The final section concludes.
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