, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 275–282 | Cite as

Vague Kinds and Biological Nominalism

  • Peter SimonsEmail author


Among biological kinds, the most important are species. But species, however defined, have vague boundaries, both synchronically owing to hybridization and ongoing speciation, and diachronically owing to genetic drift and genealogical continuity despite speciation. It is argued that the solution to the problems of species and their vague boundaries is to adopt a thoroughgoing nominalism in regard to all biological taxa, from species to domains. The base entities are individual organisms: populations of these compose species and higher taxa. This accommodates all the important biological facts while avoiding the legacy problems of pre-evolutionary typological taxonomy, which saw species and other taxa as prior to their members. Species are however not individuals: they are spatiotemporally bounded collections, which are plural particulars.


Vagueness Nominalism Biological species Taxonomy 




A class the members of which are all the taxa placed at a given level in a hierarchic classification (Simpson 1961: 19)


Offspring of a male lion and a tigress


A group of real organisms recognized as a formal unit at any level in a hierarchic classification5


Offpring of a male tiger and a lioness


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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