Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 49–66 | Cite as

Species, sets, and the derivative nature of Philosophy

  • Leigh M. Van Valen


Concepts and methods originating in one discipline can distort the structure of another when they are applied to the latter. I exemplify this mostly with reference to systematic biology, especially problems which have arisen in relation to the nature of species. Thus the received views of classes, individuals (which term I suggest be replaced by “units” to avoid misunderstandings), and sets are all inapplicable, but each can be suitably modified. The concept of fuzzy set was developed to deal with species and I defend its applicability. Taxa at all levels are real and participate in biological processes. Analysis of cause and pattern provides the deep structure in which metabiology is grounded; violation of this principle has led to diverse errors in biology.

Key words

Concept transfer species sets 


  1. Acot, P.: 1983, ‘Darwin et l'écologie’ Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 36: 33–48.Google Scholar
  2. Beatty, J.: 1981, ‘What's Wrong with the Received View of Evolutionary Theory’, PSA 1980 2: 397–426.Google Scholar
  3. Beckner, M.: 1959, The Biological Way of Thought, Columbia University Press, New York. 200 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Bernstein, H., H. C. Byerly, F. A. Hopf, and R. E. Michod: 1985, ‘Sex and the Emergence of Species’, Journal of Theoretical Biology 117, 665–690.Google Scholar
  5. Brandon, R. N.: 1981, ‘Biological Teleology: Questions and Explanations’,, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 12, 91–105.Google Scholar
  6. Brues, A.: 1972, ‘Models of Race and Cline’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 37, 389–400.Google Scholar
  7. Burger, W.: 1975, ‘The Species-Concept in Quercus’, Taxon 24, 45–50.Google Scholar
  8. Caplan, A. L.: 1979, ‘Darwinism and Deductivist Models of Theory Structure’, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 10, 341–353.Google Scholar
  9. Carson, H. L.: 1985, ‘Unification of Speciation Theory in Plants and Animals’, Systematic Botany 10, 380–390.Google Scholar
  10. Chaline, J., and L. Thaler: 1977, ‘Les problémes de l'espéce chez les Rongeurs: approachepaléontologique’, Mémoires de la Société Zoologique de France 39, 359–381.Google Scholar
  11. Cowan, S. T.: 1962, ‘The Microbial Species — a Macromyth?’,Symposia of the Society for General Microbiology 12, 433–455.Google Scholar
  12. Dobzhansky, Th.: 1951, Genetics and the Origin of Species, (ed. 3), Columbia University Press, New York. 364 pp.Google Scholar
  13. Dobzhansky, Th.: 1970, Genetics of the Evolutionary Process, Columbia University Press, New York. 505 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Durden, C. J.: 1969, ‘Ecological Aspects of the Species Concept’, Armadillo Papers 1, 1–14.Google Scholar
  15. Ehrlich, P. R., and P. H. Raven: 1969, ‘Differentiation of Populations’, Science 165, 1228–1232.Google Scholar
  16. Ellstrand, N. C., and D. A. Levin: 1980, ‘Evolution of Oenothera laciniata (Onagraceae), A Permanent Translocation Heterozygote’, Systematic Botany 5, 6–16.Google Scholar
  17. Fales, E.: 1982, ‘Natural Kinds and Freaks of Nature’, Philosophy of Science 49, 67–90.Google Scholar
  18. Foster, A. B.: 1985, ‘Variation Within Coral Colonies and Its Importannce for Interpreting Fossil Sppecies’, Journal of Paleontology 59, 1359–1381.Google Scholar
  19. Ghiselin, M. T.: 1987a, ‘Species Concepts, Individuality, and Objectivity’, Biology and Philosophy, 127–143.Google Scholar
  20. Ghiselin, M. T.: 1987b, ‘Response to Commentary on the Individuality of Species’, Biology and Philosophy, 207–212.Google Scholar
  21. Ghiselin, M. T.: 1987c, ‘Hierarchies and their Components’, Paleobiology 13, 108–111.Google Scholar
  22. Gordon, R. E.: 1978, ‘A Species Definition’, International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology 28, 605–607.Google Scholar
  23. Gould, S. J.: 1985, ‘The Paradox of the First Tier: An Agenda for Paleobioloy’, Paleobiology 11, 2–12.Google Scholar
  24. Grant, V.: 1981, Plant Speciation,(ed. 2), Columbia University Press, New York. 563 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Grant, V.: 1986, ‘Reply to W. H. Wagner on the Species Question’, Taxon 35, 541–542.Google Scholar
  26. Gregg, J. R.: 1954, The Language of Taxonomy, Columbia University Press, New York. 70 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Harrison, B. D.: 1985, ‘Usefulness and Limitation of the Species Concept for Plant Viruses’, Intervirology 24, 71–78.Google Scholar
  28. Hennig, W.: 1966, Phylogenetic Systematics, University of Illinois Press, Urbana. 263 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Holsinger, K. E.: 1984, ‘The Nature of Biological Species’, Philosophy of Science 51, 293–307.Google Scholar
  30. Hull, D. L.: 1981, ‘The herd as a means’, PSA 1980 2, 73–92.Google Scholar
  31. Hull, D. L.: 1983, ‘Karl Popper and Plato's Metaphor’, n N. I. Platnick and V. A. Funk (eds.), Advances in Cladistics, Volume 2, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 177–189.Google Scholar
  32. Hull, D. L.: 1987, ‘Genealogical Actors in Ecological Roles’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 168–184.Google Scholar
  33. Hutchinson, G. E.: 1968, ‘When are Species Necessary?’, in R. C. Lewontin (ed.), Population Biology and Evolution, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York, pp. 177–186.Google Scholar
  34. Huxley, J. S.: 1912, The Individual in the Animal Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, Camridge, England. 167 pp.Google Scholar
  35. Jongeling, T. B.: 1985, ‘On an Axiomatization of Evolutionary Theory’, Journal of Theoretical Biology 117, 529–543.Google Scholar
  36. Kitcher, P.: 1984a, ‘Species’, Philosophy of Science 51, 308–333.Google Scholar
  37. Kitcher, P.: 1984b, ‘Against the Monism of the Moment: A Reply to Elliot Sober’, Philosophy of Science 51, 616–630.Google Scholar
  38. Kitcher, P.: 1987, ‘Ghostly Whispers: Mayr, Ghiselin, and the “Philosophers” on the Ontological Status of Species’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 184–192.Google Scholar
  39. Krieber, M., and M. R. Rose: 1986, ‘Molecular Aspects of the Species Barrier’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 17, 465–485.Google Scholar
  40. Lennox, J. G.: 1985, ‘Marjorie Grene, Aristotle's Philosophy of Science and Aristotle's Biology’, PSA 1984 4, 365–377.Google Scholar
  41. Mayr, E.: 1963, Animal Species and Evolution, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 797 pp.Google Scholar
  42. Mayr, E.: 1970, Populations, Species and Evolution, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 453 pp.Google Scholar
  43. Mayr, E.: 1980, The Growth of Biological Thought, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 974 pp.Google Scholar
  44. Mayr, E.: 1987a, ‘The Ontological Status of Species: Scientific Progress and Philosophical Terminology’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 145–166.Google Scholar
  45. Mayr, E.: 1987b, ‘Answer too these Comments’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 212–220.Google Scholar
  46. Mills, S. K.: and J. H. Beatty: 1979, ‘The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness’, Philosophy of Science 46, 263–286.Google Scholar
  47. Milne, R. G.: 1985, ‘Alternatives to the Species Concept for Virus Taxonomy’, Intervirology 24, 94–98.Google Scholar
  48. Mishler, B. D., and M. J. Donoghue: 1983, ‘Species Concepts: A Case for Pluralism’, Systematic Zoology 31,(for 1982), 491–503.Google Scholar
  49. Ochman, H., and R. K. Selander: 1984, ‘Evidence for Clonal Population Structure in Escherichia coliProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [USA] 81, 198–201.Google Scholar
  50. Oldroyd, D. R.: 1986, ‘Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution: A Review of our Present Understanding’, Biology and Philosophy 1, 133–168.Google Scholar
  51. Rosenberg, A.: 1986, ‘Ignorance and Disinformation inthe Philosophy of Biology: A Reply to Stent’, Biology and Philosophy 1, 461–471.Google Scholar
  52. Salthe, S. N.: 1985, Evolving Hierarchical Systems, Columbia University Press, New York. 343 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Sigal, J.: 1966, ‘Le concept taxinomique de spectre’, Mémoires Hors-série de la Société Géologique de France 3, 1–126.Google Scholar
  54. Slatkin, M.: 1985, ‘Gene Flow in Natural Populations’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 16, 393–430.Google Scholar
  55. Sneath, P. H. A.: 1962, ‘The Construction of Taxonomic Groups’, in G. C. Ainsworth and P. H. A. Sneath (eds.), Microbial Classification, Cambridge Universtiy Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 289–332.Google Scholar
  56. Sober, E.: 1984, ‘Sets, Species, and Evolution: Comments on Philip Kitcher's “Species””, Philosophy of Science 51, 334–341.Google Scholar
  57. Sokal, R. R., and P. H. A. Sneath: 1963, Princiles of Numerical Taxonomy, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco. 359 pp.Google Scholar
  58. Stebbins, G. L.: 1985, ‘Polyploidy, Hydridization, and the Invasion of New Habitats’, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 72, 824–832.Google Scholar
  59. Stent, G. S.: 1986, ‘Glass Bead Game’, Biology and Philosophy 1, 227–247.Google Scholar
  60. Tobias, P. V.: 1985, ‘Punctuational and Phyletic Evolution in the Hominids’, in E. S. Vrba (ed.), Species and Speciation, Transvaal Museum Monograph 4, Pretoria, pp. 131–141.Google Scholar
  61. Van Valen, L. M.: 1964, ‘Analysis of Some Taxonomic Concepts’, in J. R. Gregg and F. T. C. Harris (eds.), Form and Strategy in Science, Reidel, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp. 402–415.Google Scholar
  62. Van Valen, L. M.: 1966, ‘On Discussing Human Races’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 9, 377–383.Google Scholar
  63. Van Valen, L. M.: 1971, ‘Adaptive Zones and the Orders of Mammals’, Evolution 25, 420–428.Google Scholar
  64. Van Valen, L. M.: 1973, ‘A New Evolutionary Law’, Evolutionary Theory 1, 1–30.Google Scholar
  65. Van Valen, L. M.: 1975, ‘Group Selection, Sex, and Fossils’, Evolution 29, 87–94.Google Scholar
  66. Van Valen, L. M.: 1976a, ‘Ecological Species, Multispecies, and Oaks’, Taxon 25, 233–239.Google Scholar
  67. Van Valen, L. M.: 1976b, ‘Domains, Deduction, the Predictive Method, and Darwin’, Evolutionary Theory 1, 231–245.Google Scholar
  68. Van Valen, L. M.: 1977, ‘Individualistic Classes’, Philosophy of Science 43 (for 1976), 539–541.Google Scholar
  69. Van Valen, L. M.: 1978a, ‘Why not to be a Cladist’,Evolutionary Theory 3, 285–299.Google Scholar
  70. Van Valen, L. M.: 1978b, ‘Arborescent Animals and Other Colonoids’, Nature 276, 318.Google Scholar
  71. Van Valen, L. M.: 1980, ‘Evolution as a Zero-Sum Game for Energy’, Evolutionary Theory 4, 289–300.Google Scholar
  72. Van Valen, L. M.: 1982a, ‘Integration of Species’, Evolutionary Theory 6, 99–112.Google Scholar
  73. Van Valen, L. M.: 1982b, ‘Why Misunderstand the Evolutionary Half of Biology?’, in E. Saarinen (ed.), Conceptual Issues in Ecology, Reidel, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp. 323–343.Google Scholar
  74. Van Valen, L. M.: 1984, ‘[Strategies, Causes, and Aristotle]’, BioScience 34, 602.Google Scholar
  75. Van Valen, L. M.: and V. C. Maiorana: 1985, ‘Patterns of Orignization’, Evolutionary Theory 7, 107–125.Google Scholar
  76. Van Valen, L. M., and R. E. Sloan: 1977, ‘EcoEcology and the Extinction of the Dinosaurs’ Evolutionary Theory 2, 37–64.Google Scholar
  77. Wade, M.: 1977, ‘On Experimental Study of Group Selection’, Evolution 31, 134–153.Google Scholar
  78. Wallace, A. R.: 1871, Contibutions to the Theory of Natural Selection (ed. 2), MacMillan, New York, 384 pp.Google Scholar
  79. Werth, C. R., S. I. Guttman,and W. H. Esbaugh: 1985, ‘Recurring Origins of Allopolyploid Species in Asplenium’, Science 228, 731–733.Google Scholar
  80. West-Eberhard, M. J.: 1986, ‘Alternative Adaptations, Speciation, Spe Phylogeny (a review)’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [UA] 83, 1388–1392.Google Scholar
  81. Williams, M. B.: 1985, ‘Species are Individuals: Theoretical Foundations for the Claim’, Philosophy of Science 52, 578–590.Google Scholar
  82. Wilson, D. S.: 1980, The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities, Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, California. 186 pp.Google Scholar
  83. Wolpoff, M. H., Wu, X. Z., and G. Thorne: 1984, ‘Modern Homo Sapiens Origins: A General Theory of Hominid Evolution Involving the Fossil Evidence from east Asia’, in F. H. Smith and F. Spencer (eds.), The Origins of Modern Humans, Liss, New York, pp. 411–483.Google Scholar
  84. Yamazaki, T., J.-K. Choo, T. K. Watanabe, and N. Takahata: 1986, ‘Gene flow in Natural Populations of Drosophila melanogaster with Special Reference to Lethal Allelism Rates and Protein Variation’, Genetics 113, 73–89.Google Scholar
  85. Zadeh, L.: 1965, ‘Fuzzy Sets’, Information and Control 8, 338–353.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leigh M. Van Valen
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology Dept. (Whitman)University of ChicagoChicagoU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations