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RE: Essentialism and such (was a bunch of previous subject lines)



 
As I was walking home last night I wondered if I shouldn't have stuck to
my guns and not made any specific defense of Webster and Goodwin's case
given that I was very likely to mangle it.  I also that thought that I
had seriously screwed up in calling their standpoint typological, given
all the baggage (valid and invalid) the term carries, and the fact that
they do not use it to describe themselves.  Essentialism was little
better.

I'm still not sure what I could have done otherwise, though.  Rational
Empiricism?  I didn't feel up to going through all that it would take to
explain why empiricism may nor may not be termed "rational."  Process
structuralism?  Even if it applies it's as ugly and sterile a term as
non-avian dinosaurs, or calling janitors "applied sanitation scientists"
or whatever.  Bringing up the whole concept of morphogenetic fields was
bound to bring conjure up ideas of relationships between their work and
that of Rupert Sheldrake that do not exist. 

That said, leaving Webster and Goodwin aside:
 
>Not so with organisms, populations, and species. Our properties are
highly contingent on events of our personal and >evolutionary histories.
No two of us are identical. ("There is variation in all populations"
being the first step in >natural selection, after all...).

But has any significant thinker called typological not treated this
issue in some way?  Whether or not it is true for biology, there is no
necessary contradiction between variation, even infinite variation, and
essence.  Triangles can take on an infinite number of variations in
dimension and proportion, for example, and still remain perfect
triangles.  Nor is there an necessary contradiction between essence and
continuous series.  By very simple operations triangles can be
transformed into figures that might look, at first glance, like
triangles but are not--even though some hasty triangle-ologist might
publish a paper calling a specific one of these critters a triangle.
This does not change the fact that there is a specific, rigorous nature
triangles in geometry.  

Of course, how or if this can be applied in biology is another matter.


Carl Ramm