Science

Wittgenstein Solves (Posthumously) the Species Problem

Our science columnist Massimo Pigliucci on a longstanding problem in biology and how philosophy helps.

Biologists and (some) philosophers seem to share an obsession: they apparently never tire of discussions about the nature of biological species. What exactly is a species? If you happen to enroll in graduate studies in ecology, evolutionary biology, or philosophy of biology, the likelihood that you will have to sit through a semester-long seminar on the topic is high indeed. Moreover, you will probably leave that seminar with little more understanding of what species are than when you entered it.

And yet, the ‘species problem’ is certainly fundamental to biology, and hence to philosophy of science. It is not by chance that Darwin titled the most important book ever written in biology (and possibly in the whole of science), On the Origin of Species.

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