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Generation and the Task of Classification

Generation and the Task of Classification

(p.16) One Generation and the Task of Classification
Kant’s Organicism
Jennifer Mensch
University of Chicago Press

This chapter delves into the theory of classification developed by Locke and explores the special problems posed for taxonomy by its inability to account for organic processes in general. Designed originally as an exercise in logic, classification becomes immediately complicated once it turns to organic life, and the aims of taxonomy become thereby caught up with the special problems of generation, variation, and inheritance. Locke found out himself the dynamism of nature and the necessary artificiality of an a priori system of classification through a first-hand experience with organic processes. These were precisely the grounds upon which he could recognize the need to disentangle the epistemic and cognitive aspect of taxonomy from the attempt being made by taxonomists to create a natural system. By the middle of the eighteenth century, natural history would be wrested from the hands of taxonomy through the aid of Locke’s work in demonstrating the arbitrary nature of classification.

Keywords:   natural history, locke, taxonomy, organic processes, dynamism, classification

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