Classificatory Theory in Biology
Scientiﬁc classiﬁcation has long been recognized as involving a speciﬁc style of reasoning and doing research, and as occasionally affecting the development of scientiﬁc theories. However, the role played by classiﬁcatory activities in generating theories has not been closely investigated within the philosophy of science. I argue that classiﬁcatory systems can themselves become a form of theory, which I call classiﬁcatory theory, when they come to formalize and express the scientiﬁc signiﬁcance of the elements being classiﬁed. This is particularly evident in some of the classiﬁcation practices used in contemporary experimental biology, such as bio-ontologies used to classify genomic data and typologies used to classify ‘‘normal’’ stages of development in developmental biology. In this paper, I explore some characteristics of classiﬁcatory theories and ways in which they differ from other types of scientiﬁc theories and other components of scientiﬁc epistemology, such as models and background assumptions.
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Author's version of a paper subsequently published in Biological Theory. Please cite the published version by following the DOI link.
Vol. 7, Issue 1