Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme"

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Wed 01 Jun 2005 - 01:26:54 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme""

    On 01/06/2005, at 11:09 AM, Scott Chase wrote:

    > Plus the word "bat" itself can be punned from its
    > usage in baseball to its usage in mammalogy. Then we
    > have a concept that can range from Dracula's favorite
    > way of getting around (with all its Gothic
    > representations) to a cute little pipistrelle. When we
    > verge into categorization of living things, we are in
    > Dr. John Wilkins's neck of the woods (species
    > concepts). Yet there are toy bats that kids could
    > dangle from the ceiling at Halloween, so we're still
    > straddling between the natural and contrived (like
    > with wooden and plastic sticks). In the naturalistic
    > arena, for species concepts, there are some issues of
    > nominalism too, like is it something that really
    > exists as we think it is or are we just defining it
    > with our label and lending it a degree of
    > artificiality with our conceptualization of it and the
    > way we represent it in our noggins? Maybe our label
    > affixed to the species is contrived in a similar
    > manner as the rubbery child's toy. That ought to get
    > John foaming at the mouth if he's reading this :-)

    Fortunately I'm not. But while not reading this, let me not make this point: The view you are referring to is basically that of the nominalists (all general terms are flatus vocus - breath of the voice), or conventionalism, a view that arises, so far as I can tell, with Locke.

    In modern biological taxonomy, this is what I call species denial. A species is just some handy tag we assign to organisms to help communication between scientists. I have some sympathy for it, although I reject it.

    John S. Wilkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biohumanities Project
    University of Queensland - Blog:
    "Darwin's theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other
    hypothesis in natural science." Tractatus 4.1122
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