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Taxon names and varieties of reference

Authors
  • Witteveen, Joeri1
  • 1 University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark , Copenhagen (Denmark)
Type
Published Article
Journal
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Jun 03, 2021
Volume
43
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s40656-021-00432-4
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Linnaean-style, rank-based codes of taxonomic nomenclature provide stability to the relation between taxon names and their referents through the device of nomenclatural types. The practice of using types to tether names to taxa is uncontroversial and well-understood. But the nature of the relation between types, names, and taxa continues to be a topic of philosophical debate. A particularly contested issue is whether it is necessary for taxa that have a type specimen to contain their type specimen. Jerzy Brzozowski has recently offered a novel account of taxon names that, he claims, shows that the relation between a type specimen and the (sub)species it belongs to is contingent (Brzozowski in Hist Philos Life Sci 42(3):1–25, 2020). I argue that this is mistaken. While Brzozowski’s contribution helps to advance the debate by bringing concepts from the philosophy of reference to bear on taxonomic naming practices, his new account of taxon names fails to support his central argument. Indeed, I show that the philosophical concepts he introduces into the debate cement the view that it is necessary for a (sub)species with a type specimen to contain it.

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