Whales, fish and Alaskan bears: interest-relative taxonomy and kind pluralism in biology

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This paper uses two case studies to explore an interest-relative view of taxonomy and how it complements kind pluralism in biology. First, I consider the ABC island bear, which can be correctly classified into more than one species. I argue that this classificatory pluralism can be explained by reference to the range of alternative explanatory interests in biology. In the second half of the paper, I pursue an interest-relative view of classification more generally. I then apply the resultant view to a second case study: whether whales are fish. I argue that this question is not one about scientific vs folk usage, as has been assumed. I also develop a new view: that Fish should be rejected as a category, both from the point of view of biological science, and from the point of view of folk taxonomy. Along the way, I use the interest-relative view to shed light on the circumstances under which higher taxa should be accepted as legitimate categories for biological science.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Early online date8 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2019


  • Higher Taxa
  • Interest-relative taxonomy
  • Kind pluralism
  • Species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


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