Natural classificationJohn Wilkins and Malte Ebach
• “All science is either physics or stamp collecting!”• Two responses:• 1. Actually other science is also like physics: Ph...
• Scientific ontology is derived from theory• "Theory is not solely an economical representation of experimental laws; it ...
• Although Darwin was a standard systematist (Strickland Code), his ideas wereimmediately thought to undercut taxa• If spe...
• From c1900, philosophy moves away from evolution and natural classification• John Dewey reduces classification to librar...
• Obviously, biological sciences classified from the beginning• We still recognise, e.g., species defined in the 16thC by ...
• Mineralogy (Mohs, Linnaeus)• Chemistry – elements, atomic weight, spectrum analysis• Leading to an empirical periodic ta...
• The problem of theory-dependence of observation• Can naive observation happen?• Nobody starts by knowing nothing; no tab...
Theory-relativity• A theory is relative to a domain of investigation• If the domain lacks a theory, it does not mean we ha...
• Conceptual• Passive (classification) to active (theoretical explanation)• Empirical• Passive (naive observation) to acti...
B: Baconian inductionP: Popperian GTR
Exp Cla Obs TheExp Revision andcorrection3. Experiment cansuggestclassificationcategory11. Experiment canrestrict or guide...
Some principles• Classification sets up the explicandum that theory explains• Theory can change a natural classification v...
Science is a Dance FloorThere’s room for everyone
“OK, let’s slowly lower in the grant money.”
Natural classification
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Natural classification

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Presented with Malte Ebach at UNSW

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Natural classification

  1. 1. Natural classificationJohn Wilkins and Malte Ebach
  2. 2. • “All science is either physics or stamp collecting!”• Two responses:• 1. Actually other science is also like physics: Physics envy• 2. Stamp collecting is valuable• I want to discuss the history of these views and argue that we need naturalclassification to make sense of that history and modern scienceRutherfords dictum
  3. 3. • Scientific ontology is derived from theory• "Theory is not solely an economical representation of experimental laws; it is also aclassification of these laws" (Duhem 1914 23)• "When the zoologist asserts that ... a classification is natural, he means that those idealconnections correspond to real relations among the associated creatures broughttogether and embodied in his abstractions" (25)• Classification is held to be an intellectual operation on abstract ideas.• Since theory is self-standing, the only ideas that matter are theoretical• Similar views held by Kuhn, Lakatos and Popper• Two schools:• Evolutionary conventionalism• Philosophical theory-derivationThe standard view of classification:
  4. 4. • Although Darwin was a standard systematist (Strickland Code), his ideas wereimmediately thought to undercut taxa• If species evolve, then they are not real• We classify based on "evolutionary novelties"• By the sesquicentenary of the Origin, the standard view was that classificationwas a matter of convenience (Conventionalism)• Colloquium in American Naturalist in 1908, Botanical Society of AmericameetingDarwin and the decline in systematics
  5. 5. • From c1900, philosophy moves away from evolution and natural classification• John Dewey reduces classification to librarianship• Russell and Moore reject evolution philosophically• Classification becomes a matter of our best theory and convenience• F. P. Ramsey suggests we formalise theories as logical sentences• Hence, an object exists so long as it is the kind of thing that can be representedas a variable in that logical (or Ramsey) sentence:• Quines slogan: "To be is to be the value of a variable" ("On What There Is",1948)• This is an essentialism: the ontology of a theory is the definitional essences deducedfrom the variables of the theoryPhilosophy and classification
  6. 6. • Obviously, biological sciences classified from the beginning• We still recognise, e.g., species defined in the 16thC by Bauhin, Gesner andothers, well before any theory• While Linnaeuss scheme was not meant to be "natural", naturalclassification was the goal in the late 18thC to early 19thC• Adanson• A. L. de Jussieu• W. S. Macleay• Whewell• Not just in biology, though...What is wrong with this?
  7. 7. • Mineralogy (Mohs, Linnaeus)• Chemistry – elements, atomic weight, spectrum analysis• Leading to an empirical periodic table• Medicine - classifying disease• Psychology• DSM - etiology versus phenomenology• Earth sciences• Rock types• Soil types• Ecology• Ecotypes• Biogeographical regions (Wallace)Classification in the other sciences
  8. 8. • The problem of theory-dependence of observation• Can naive observation happen?• Nobody starts by knowing nothing; no tabula rasa• Prior knowledge:• Folk science and taxonomy• Linguistic categories• Psychological dispositions• Berlins Five level theory• Evolutionary psychology• Kantian synthetic a prioria are evolutionary a posterioria – Lorenz• Is any of this theory?Natural classification and observation
  9. 9. Theory-relativity• A theory is relative to a domain of investigation• If the domain lacks a theory, it does not mean we have no theory• For example, did Galileos observation of the moons of Jupiter need thetheory of optics? (What about children that could see them with the nakedeye?)• So is "naive" observation possible?• Platnick and the spinneret• The five year old test
  10. 10. • Conceptual• Passive (classification) to active (theoretical explanation)• Empirical• Passive (naive observation) to active (experimental intervention)• Rather than a set sequence or algorithm of discovery (“scientific method”), thissets up a field of possible steps and activities for a researcher, research group,program or discipline• Individually, each active researcher, etc., will strive to balance promisingactivities against costs and likelihoods of success• In a field that has elaborate successful theories, naive classification will bedeprecatedScience as a field of opportunities
  11. 11. B: Baconian inductionP: Popperian GTR
  12. 12. Exp Cla Obs TheExp Revision andcorrection3. Experiment cansuggestclassificationcategory11. Experiment canrestrict or guide“naive”observations2. Experiment canrestrict theoreticalrange, ordisconfirm theoryCla 4. Classification cansuggest things tomeasure and expectRevision andcorrection5. Classification canguide the evidencesought10. Classificationcan restrict orguides the ontologyof a theory and theexplanatorycategories usedObs 12. Naiveobservation caninfluence the dataused in experiment6. Classification canbe based on naiveobservations madepretheoreticallyRevision andcorrection7. Theoreticalpredictions can failto be borne out inobservationThe 1. Theory canspecify legitimateexperimentalprotocols and9. Theoreticalvariables canbecomeclassification8. Observation candepend upon theontology andmethodology of aRevision andcorrection
  13. 13. Some principles• Classification sets up the explicandum that theory explains• Theory can change a natural classification via iterative refinement (reciprocalillumination)• Observation can be domain-theory-free and therefore “naive”• Everyone has some knowledge prior to investigation• Some observation is theory-dependent• There is no set sequence for a domain’s development: it depends upon thebroader discipline and how it is located within science generally
  14. 14. Science is a Dance FloorThere’s room for everyone
  15. 15. “OK, let’s slowly lower in the grant money.”

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