Historical Individuals Like <i>Anas platyrhynchos</i> and ‘Classical Gas’

P.D. Magnus

in Art and Abstract Objects

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199691494
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746277 | DOI:
Historical Individuals Like Anas platyrhynchos and ‘Classical Gas’

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Although biological species were once examples of natural kinds, philosophers of biology have come to think of them as individuals. Similar reasons suggest that multiple-instance works of art (musical works, prints), might better be thought of as individuals. Although the motivation is different, the resulting nominalist-friendly ontology is similar to one proposed by Rohrbaugh. This chapter explores how the analogy can motivate such a metaphysical view and reveals a difference between species and artworks. In philosophy of biology, the debate is orthogonal to debates between species monists and species pluralists; the different species concepts, which species concept pluralists advocate are all compatible with the view that species are individuals. In philosophy of art, some concepts do not specify an artwork’s provenance and may count historically unconnected tokens as instances of the same work; such a work cannot be historically individual. Debates about the concept and general ontology are interconnected.

Keywords: biology; species; ontology; concept pluralism; historical individual; homeostatic property cluster; art ontology; nominalism

Chapter.  6772 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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