Origins, taxa, names and meanings


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Animal and plant taxonomy is neither a department of linguistics, nor for that matter of metaphysics, but a department of empirical biology. (Hanna and Harrison, 2004, p. 260).

In a recent contribution, Ereshefsky (2007a) maintained the following points against Nixon and Carpenter (2000), Keller et al. (2003), and Rieppel (2005a, 2006a,b): (1) that species and taxa are individuals, not natural kinds; (2) that “origin essentialism” conflates qualitative essentialism with genealogical connectedness; and (3) that rigid designation theory applies to taxon names. Here I argue that: (1) the conception of species as individuals or natural kinds is not mutually exclusive but rather context sensitive; species are best seen as spatio-temporally located processual systems that instantiate an HPC natural kind; (2) “origin essentialism” is problematic because of the fuzzy boundaries of species and taxa, yet required if rigid designation theory is to apply to taxon names; and (3) the theories of direct reference and rigid designation do not apply to taxon names.

© The Willi Hennig Society 2008.