Advertisement

Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 215–244 | Cite as

The individuality of the species: A Darwinian theory? — from Buffon to Ghiselin, and back to Darwin

  • Jean Gayon
Article

Abstract

Since the 1970s, there has been a tremendous amount of literature on Ghiselin's proposal that “species are individuals”. After recalling the origins and stakes of this thesis in contemporary evolutionary theory, I show that it can also be found in the writings of the French naturalist Buffon in the 18th Century. Although Buffon did not have the conception that one species could be derived from another, there is an interesting similarity between the modern argument and that of Buffon regarding the “individuality of species’. The analogy is strong enough to force us to recognize that genuine evolutionary (or Darwinian) questions might be of secondary importance in the discussion. In consequence, the third section of the paper proposes an alternative schema for the “logical structure” of the Darwinian concept of species. Darwin distinguished the problem of the designation of a concrete species, and the problem of its signification of species within his theory of descent? The resulting notion of species involves a logical structure based on the fusion of the logical operations of classification and ordering. The difficulty — and interest — is that this interpretation of species does not entail any precise operational definition of species; it can only tell us what the ultimate signification of classification is within the theory of descent with modification through natural selection.

Key words

Classes classification evolution Buffon Darwin Ghiselin individuality ordering concept of species 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Agassiz, Jean-Louis R.: 1860, ‘On the Origin of Species’, American Journal of Science and Arts, 2d ser. 30, 142–154.Google Scholar
  2. Beatty, John: 1985, ‘Speaking of Species: Darwin's Strategy’, in D. Kohn, (ed.), The Darwinian Heritae, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  3. Bock, Walter J.: 1979, ‘The Synthetic Theory of Macroevolutionary Change.—A Reductionistic Approach’, in J.H. Schwartz and H.B. Rollings (eds.), Models and Methodologies in Evolutionary Theory, Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 13, 20–69.Google Scholar
  4. Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de: 1749–1804, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière..., Imprimerie Royale, then Plassan, Paris, 44 vol.Google Scholar
  5. Cicero, Marcus Tullius: [1st Cy b.c.], Cicero in Twenty Eight Volumes, with an English Translation by H. Rackham, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, & William Heinemann ltd, London. There have been many nex editions and/or reimpressions since the 1910. For the precise editions used in this article, see footnote on Cicero.Google Scholar
  6. Cuénot, Lucien: 1936, L'Espèce, Doin, Paris.Google Scholar
  7. Darwin, Charles: 1859, On the Origin of Species, Murray, London (Facsimile: Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1964). M. Peckham, Orse, (ed.): 1959, The Origin of Species By Charles Darwin: A Variorum Text, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  8. Darwin, Charles: 1993, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8 (1860), F. Burkhardt et al. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  9. Eldredge, Niles: 1985, Unfinished Synthesis: Biological Hierarchies and Modern Evolutionary Thought, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Gayon, Jean: 1990, ‘Critics and Criticisms of the Modern Synthesis: the Viewpoint of a Philosopher’, Evolutionary Biology 24, 1–49.Google Scholar
  11. Gayon, Jean, (ed.): 1992, Buffon 1988, Actes du colloque international du bicentenaire de la mort de Buffon, Paris-Montbard-Dijon, sous la direction de Jean Gayon, préface d'Ernst Mayr, postface de Georges Canguilhem, Paris, Vrin, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. Gayon, Jean: 1993, ‘Le concept de récapitulation à l'épreuve de la théorie darwinienne de l'évolution’, in P. Mengal, (ed.), Histoire du concept de récapitulation, Paris, Masson, 1993, pp. 79–92.Google Scholar
  13. Gayon, Jean: 1993, ‘La biologie entre loi et histoire’, Philosophie 38, 30–57Google Scholar
  14. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1966, ‘On Psychologism in the Logic of Taxonomic Controversies’, Systematic Zoology 3, 207–215.Google Scholar
  15. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1969, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  16. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1972, ‘The Individual in the Darwinian Revolution’, New Lit. Hist., 113–134.Google Scholar
  17. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1974, The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  18. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1975, ‘A Radical Solution to the Species Problem’, Systematic Zoology 23, 536–544.Google Scholar
  19. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1987a, ‘Species Concepts, Individuality, and Objectivity’, Biology and Philosophy, pp. 127–143.Google Scholar
  20. Ghiselin, Michael T.: 1987b, ‘Response to Commentary on the Individuality of Species’, Biology and Philosophy, pp. 207–212.Google Scholar
  21. Ghiselin Michael T.: 1989, ‘Individuality, History and Laws of Nature in Biology’, in M. Ruse (ed.), What the Philosophy of Biology is, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 63–66.Google Scholar
  22. Gould Stephen J.: 1982, ‘The Meaning of Punctuated Equilibrium and its Role in Validating a Hierarchical Approach to Macroevolution’, in R. Milkman (ed.), Perspectives in Evolution, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Mass, pp. 83–104.Google Scholar
  23. Greene, John C.: 1959, The Death of Adam: Evolution and its Impact on Western Thought, The Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.Google Scholar
  24. Guyénot, Émile: 1941, Les sciences de la vie aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. L'idée d'évolution, Albin Michel, Paris.Google Scholar
  25. Hempel, Carl G. and P. Oppenheim: 1936, Der Typusbegriffim Lichte der neuen Logik, Leiden.Google Scholar
  26. Hull, David: 1974, The Philosophy of Biological Science, 1974, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  27. Hume, David: [1739–1740] 1969, A Treatise of Human Nature, edited with an Introduction by Ernest C. Mossner, London, Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  28. Kant, Immanuel: [1781], Kritik der Reinen Vernunft.Google Scholar
  29. Kitcher, Philip, 1987: ‘Ghostly Whispers: Mayr, Ghiselin, and the “Philosophers” on the Ontological status of Species’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 184–191.Google Scholar
  30. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von: [written in 1686] 1907, Discours de Métaphysique, Nouvelle édition collationnée pour la première fois avec le texte autographe de l'auteur, Introduction and notes by H. Lestienne, Paris, Alcan.Google Scholar
  31. Lurie, Edward: 1960, A Life in Science, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  32. Mayr, Ernst: 1942, Systematics and the Origin of Species, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Mayr, Ernst: 1972, ‘Lamarck Revisited’, Journal of the History of Biology 5, 55–94.Google Scholar
  34. Mayr, Ernst: 1974, Populations, espèces et évolution, Hermann, Paris.Google Scholar
  35. Mayr, Ernst: 1987: ‘The Ontological Status of Species: Scientific Progress and Philosophical Terminology’, Biology and Philosophy 2, 185–186.Google Scholar
  36. Nowinski, Czeslaw: 1967, ‘Biologie, théories du développement et dialectique’, in J. Piaget (ed.), Logique et connaissance scientifique, Pléiade, Paris, pp. 862–892.Google Scholar
  37. Nowinski, Czeslaw and L. Kunicki: 1965, The Development of the Notion of Species in Biology (in Polish), Warsaw.Google Scholar
  38. Piaget, Jean: 1973, Introduction à l'épistémologie génétique, 2d ed., t. I, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris. (1st ed. 1949).Google Scholar
  39. Piveteau, Jean: 1954, Oeuvres philosophiques de Buffon, texte établi et présenté par J. Piveteau avec la collaboration de M. Fréchet et C. Bruneau, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris.Google Scholar
  40. Piveteau Jean: 1963, ‘Buffon et le Transformisme’, inPrécurseurs et fondateurs de l'évolutionnisme: Buffon, Lamarck, Darwin, Éditions du Muséum, Paris, 19–24.Google Scholar
  41. Porter, Roy: 1989, ‘Erasmus Darwin (Erasmus): Doctor of Evolution?’, in James R. Moore (ed.), History, Humanity and Evolution, Essays for John C. Greene, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 39–69.Google Scholar
  42. Roger, Jacques: 1963, Les sciences de la vie dans la pensée française du XVIIIe siècle, Armand Colin, Paris.Google Scholar
  43. Roger, Jacques: 1989, Buffon. Un philosophe au Jardin du Roi, Fayard, Paris.Google Scholar
  44. Rosenberg, Alexander: 1985, The Structure of Biological Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  45. Rostand, Jean: 1960, ‘Les précurseurs français de Charles Darwin’, Revue d'Histoire des Sciences et de leurs Applications, 13, 45–58.Google Scholar
  46. Simpson, George Gaylord: 1961, Principles of Animal Taxonomy, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  47. Sloan, Phillip R.: 1987, ‘From Logical Universals to Historical Individuals: Buffon's Idea of Biological Species’, in Histoire du concept d'espèce dans les Sciences de la vie (Colloque international, Paris 1985), Éditions de la Fondation Si Singer-Polignac, Paris, pp. 101–140.Google Scholar
  48. Smart, J.J.C.: 1963, Philosophy and Scientific Realism, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  49. Stanley, S.M.: 1975, ‘A Theory of Evolution Above the Species Level’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 72, 646–650.Google Scholar
  50. Stauffer, R.C.: 1975, Charles Darwin's Natural Selection, being the Second Part of his Big Species Book written from 1856–1858, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  51. Strawson, Peter F.: 1959, Individuals, Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  52. Sulloway, Frank: ‘Geographic Isolation in Darwin's Thinking: The Vicissitudes of a Crucial Idea’, Studies in the History of Biology 3, 23–65.Google Scholar
  53. Van Valen, Lee: 1976, ‘Ecological Species, Multispecies, and Oaks’, Taxon 25, 233–239.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Gayon
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculté de Lettres et PhilosophieInstitut Universitaire de France Université de BourgogneDijonFrance

Personalised recommendations