UBC Theses and Dissertations
The persistence question of the species problem Amitani, Yuichi
The species problem is the longstanding puzzle in biology regarding the nature of the species category or how to correctly define `species.' Although biologists and philosophers have grappled with it for quite some time, they have thus far failed to reach a general consensus on the matter. My dissertation explores the question of why this problem persists —— why biologists and philosophers remain bothered by the species problem, and have found no solution to it. I call this the persistence question of the species problem. This dissertation aims to answer this persistence question. My strategy is to divide this question into several sub-questions and to answer them. Those questions include: (a) Why does no definition command universal support? (b) How could biologists conduct their research concerning species without a unanimously accepted solution? For question (a), I put forward the argument from interest-relativity. The premises are: (I) biologists have different interests in species, (R) under some interest, biologists erect a set of species criteria and accept only the definition(s) that best satisfy them, and (N) a taxon satisfying one criterion often fails to satisfy another. It follows that there will be very few unanimously accepted definitions of species, because one definition under one interest will fail to satisfy criteria provoked by others. For the question (b), I pointed out two factors. First, when there is no unanimously accepted definition of species, biologists may fail to communicate effectively about species, because the definition of ‘species’ may vary among biologists. But biologists often agree regarding the reference of `species' and species names (like `Homo sapiens'), and we see that this has enabled them to avoid the possible communication breakdown in the history of biology. Second, the way in which biologists represent the notion of species is also relevant. There is a tendency in biologists to represent the species category with its prototype, good species and infer various attributes of the former from those of the latter. When biologists make this attribute substitution, they tend to ignore the complexities of the species problem and do their research without being bothered by them.
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