Is biodiversity a natural quality?

Authored by: James Maclaurin

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138827738
eBook ISBN: 9781315530215
Adobe ISBN: 9781315530208


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Is biodiversity an objective feature of the natural world akin to a natural kind? Does it need to be in order to fulfill its dual role in science and public policy? This chapter evaluates competing philosophical theories about the nature of biodiversity and finds each corresponds to a recent theory about the nature of biological natural kinds. I argue that this tells us something important both about the nature of biodiversity and about the way we understand natural kinds in the life sciences. First, it demonstrates an inherent vagueness in a recent characterization of biological natural kinds by P. D. Magnus (2012). More importantly, it demonstrates a fundamental incoherence in the assertion in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that biodiversity be both “intrinsically valuable” and that its scope should extend to all diversity in all living systems. I begin by explaining why we should care whether biodiversity is a natural kind.

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