Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 189–220 | Cite as

Classifying Life, Reconstructing History and Teaching Diversity: Philosophical Issues in the Teaching of Biological Systematics and Biodiversity

  • Thomas A. C. ReydonEmail author


Classification is a central endeavor in every scientific field of work. Classification in biology, however, is distinct from classification in other fields of science in a number of ways. Thus, understanding how biological classification works is an important element in understanding the nature of biological science. In the present paper, I discuss a number of philosophical issues that are characteristic for classification in biological science, paying special attention to questions related to science education. My aims are (1) to provide science educators and others concerned with the teaching of biology with an accessible overview of the philosophy of biological classification and (2) to show how knowledge of the philosophy of classification can play an important role in science teaching.


Biological Science Natural Kind Species Concept High Taxon Recent Common Ancestor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am indebted to Kostas Kampourakis and John Wilkins for helpful comments on drafts of this paper, and to Sabina Leonelli for bringing the view of Claude Bernard to my attention by means of a recent paper of hers (Leonelli 2010).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Philosophy and Center for Philosophy and Ethics of Science (ZEWW)Leibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany

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