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Taxonomy and its Pleasures

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image of Research in Phenomenology

Taxonomy is our response to the proliferating variety of the natural world on the one hand, and the principle of unrelieved universality on the other. From Aristotle, through Porphyry to Linneaus, Kant and others, thinkers have struggled to develop taxonomies that could order what we know and also what we do not yet know, and this essay is a reflection on the existential desire that propels this effort. Porphyry’s tree of logic is an exhaustive account of the things we can say about the sort of beings we are; Linneaus’s system of nature reaches completion in the classification of humans; Kant discovers a way to have natural and logical forms coincide in the thought of natural purpose and purposiveness. The stakes are high. When we order the world, we order ourselves: when we enter the taxonomy, it enters us and confronts us with our judgments of kind, race and kin.

Affiliations: 1: Stony Brook University Anne.O’Byrne@stonybrook.edu

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/content/journals/10.1163/15691640-12341378
2017-09-06
2017-12-18

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