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The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy: A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) Hardcover – November 27, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0521781701 ISBN-10: 0521781701 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology
  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (November 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521781701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521781701
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,539,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Linnaean classification is pre-Darwinian, yet evolutionary biologists continue to use it to describe life's diversity. In this clearly written and incisive book, Ereshefsky shows that this makes no sense. His message isn't just that the Linnaean system should be junked; in addition, Ereshefsky constructs a better system to take its place. This book is of practical importance to biologists, but its analysis of the relationship between theories and classification schemes will also be of compelling interest to philosophers of science." Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin

"[I]nteresting and thought provokingoI recommend Ereshefskyas book to anyone curious about the issues that taxonomists are currently debating. His radical proposals, like any revolutionary ideas, will no doubt be met with strong resistance." Science

"Overall, this book will appeal to systematists who wish to keep pattern and process closely interwoven." NATURE, Feb. 2002

"This book is of practical importance to biologists and philosophers of science.... Will do much to encourage open discussion in this important subject area." Southeastern Naturalist

Book Description

The question of whether biologists should continue to use the Linnaean hierarchy is a hotly debated issue. Invented before the introduction of evolutionary theory, Linnaeus's system of classifying organisms is based on outdated theoretical assumptions, and is thought to be unable to provide accurate biological classifications.Ereshefsky argues that biologists should abandon the Linnaean system and adopt an alternative that is more in line with evolutionary theory. He illustrates how the continued use of this system hampers our ability to classify the organic world, and then goes on to make specific recommendations for a post-Linnaean method of classification.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Birger Hjørland on July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Gradually general principles of classification and knowledge organizations have become more clear to me. An important insight is that any classification of a domain must be based on theories or views of that domain. I try to verify this on different domains. This is not always easy, and some of the most influential classifications seems to contradict this principle. This is, for example, the case with Linnaean classification in biology, which was developed before Darvian and modern evolutionary theory and it is the case with the influential psychiatric classification DSM IV.

Ereshefskys book on the Linnaean classification in biology represents high class scholarship in both biology and philosophy and it is a goldmine of arguments for a general philosophy of classification. Besides it is an indication that philosophy can make itself a productive part of of specific specific scientific research.
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