Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 221–240

Biological Essentialism and the Tidal Change of Natural Kinds


DOI: 10.1007/s11191-012-9450-z

Cite this article as:
Wilkins, J.S. Sci & Educ (2013) 22: 221. doi:10.1007/s11191-012-9450-z


The vision of natural kinds that is most common in the modern philosophy of biology, particularly with respect to the question whether species and other taxa are natural kinds, is based on a revision of the notion by Mill in A System of Logic. However, there was another conception that Whewell had previously captured well, which taxonomists have always employed, of kinds as being types that need not have necessary and sufficient characters and properties, or essences. These competing views employ different approaches to scientific methodologies: Mill’s class-kinds are not formed by induction but by deduction, while Whewell’s type-kinds are inductive. More recently, phylogenetic kinds (clades, or monophyletic-kinds) are inductively projectible, and escape Mill’s strictures. Mill’s version represents a shift in the notions of kinds from the biological to the physical sciences.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia