Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Eric Desjardins

2nd Supervisor

Devin Hery

Joint Supervisor


Species are central to biology, but there is currently no agreement on what the adequate species concept should be, and many have adopted a pluralist stance: different species concepts will be required for different purposes. This thesis is a multidimensional analysis of species pluralism. First I explicate how pluralism differs monism and relativism. I then consider the history of species pluralism. I argue that we must re-frame the species problem, and that re-evaluating Aristotle's role in the histories of systematics can shed light on pluralism. Next I consider different forms of pluralism: evolutionary and extra-evolutionary species pluralism, which differ in their stance on evolutionary theory. I show that pluralism is more than a debate about the species category, but a debate about which concepts are legitimate and a claim about how they interact with one another. Following that, I consider what sort of ontology is required for different forms of species pluralism. I argue that pluralists who deny the unity of biology will require a further plurality of frameworks, while those that ground their pluralism in evolution need only one framework. Finally, I consider what pluralism means for biological practice. I argue that species concepts are tools, and reflect on how pluralism can illuminate the way systematists approach the discovery of new species of yeast. Pluralism can make sense of the way species concepts are used, and can be developed to aid researchers in thinking about how to use the right tools for the right jobs.