Journal Article

Gene Names as Proper Names of Individuals: An Assessment

Thomas A. C. Reydon

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 2, pages 409-432
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp002
Gene Names as Proper Names of Individuals: An Assessment

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According to a recent suggestion, the names of gene taxa should be conceived of as referring to individuals with concrete genes as their parts, just as the names of biological species are often understood as denoting individuals with organisms as their parts. Although prima facie this suggestion might advance the debate on gene concepts in a similar way as the species-are-individuals thesis advanced the debate on species concepts, I argue that the principal arguments in support of the gene-individuality thesis are much less compelling than the parallel arguments in the species case. In addition, I argue that the notion of biological function invoked in the gene-individuality thesis (selected effect) is not the one that biologists actually use when individuating genes. Contra the gene-individuality thesis, I argue that gene names refer to kinds, defined primarily (though not exclusively) by causal-role functions. 1

Introduction

2

Species as Individuals: The Two Main Arguments

3

Gene-Lineages as Individuals: Rosenberg's Argumentation

4

Assessing the GAI-Thesis 4.1

Metaphysics: What biology tells us about lineages

4.2

Epistemology: How biologists individuate the parts of genomes

5

What Do Gene Names Refer To?

6

Why the GAI-thesis Won't Solve the Gene Problem

Journal Article.  10442 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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