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Justin Bzovy
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conference paper description
Species pluralism allows for multiple species concepts. Given the overwhelming number of such concepts (Mayden 1997, Wilkins 2011), this seems like an obvious interpretation of how `species' is used in contemporary biology. But why has it taken so long for this approach to be considered? I argue that part of the reason pluralism was overlooked due to the widespread use of a particular rhetorical strategy developed by Ernst Mayr. This strategy provided a framework for debates about the correct conception of species. That is, the strategy offered a means of comparing modern concepts with a monistic-essentialist understanding of species. I ask what would happen if we replaced this concept with Aristotle's own pluralist-essentialist understanding of species. As recent scholarship shows, Aristotle's philosophy of biology allows for an approach to classification that is in practice highly pluralistic (Henry 2011, 2014, Leunissen 2014). From this new framework we can understand what sort of assumptions are at stake between modern forms of species pluralism. My analysis shows that the essentialist story told by Mayr and others left us asking the wrong questions about how to conceive of species in an evolutionary world. Having a deeper understanding of Aristotle's approach to the classification of animals allows us to shift focus from the so-called species problem in order to raise four issues that are relevant to current debates. These are questions about: (1) the explanatory power of taxonomic ranks, (2) the importance of the species category problem, (3) whether species are constituted by intrinsic or extrinsic properties, and (4) how to interpret the ``cross-cutting'' metaphor endemic to the pluralist literature. In order to get to these questions I will first explain what sort of claim species pluralism is at the most general level, and a gloss on the standard interpretation of the historical shift from species monism to species pluralism.

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