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Radical Pluralism, Ontological Underdetermination, and the Role of Values in Species Classification



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The main claim of this thesis is that value-judgments should play a profound role in the construction and evaluation of species classifications. The arguments for this claim will be presented over the course of five chapters. These are divided into two main parts; part one, which consists of the two first chapters, presents an argument for a radical form of species pluralism; part two, which comprises the remaining chapters, discusses the implications of radical species pluralism for the role of values in species classification. The content of the five chapters is as follows. Chapter 1 starts with a discussion of the theoretical assumptions concerning species and natural kinds that form the broad framework within which the arguments of the thesis are placed. The aim of this chapter is to introduce a set of relatively uncontroversial assumptions that frame the rest of the thesis. On the basis of these assumptions, chapter 2 presents an argument for radical species pluralism. The chapter substantiates this argument with a broad range of examples, and compares this position to other forms of species pluralism. Chapter 3 returns to the main interest of the thesis, namely, the role of values in species classification. It introduces the notion of values and presents an argument for the value-ladenness of taxonomy on the basis of the considerations in the first two chapters. It then sketches three important views on values in science in the literature. Chapter 4 argues that the case presented in chapter 3 provides strong support for one of these views, called the ‘Aims View’, and against two other prominent views, called the ‘Epistemic Priority View’ and the ‘Value-Free Ideal’. The resulting view, in line with the Aims View, is that value-judgments should play a particularly substantial role in species classification. Chapter 5 then considers the popular assumption that these value-judgments in taxonomy commonly take the shape of generally accepted classificatory norms, and argues that this assumption is not tenable. Finally, a brief concluding chapter points at some implications of the claims and arguments in this thesis.





Lewens, Tim


Species classification, values in science, natural kinds, classification, Ontological underdetermination


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) - AHRC - Walker Studentship SHSS PhD Bursary Maintenance Award