Darwin used taxonomic arguments widely in his work on transformism and natural selection, especially in attempts to persuade other (typically non-transformist) naturalists of the correctness of his ideas in Origin of Species. But, as has long been noticed, classificatory practices in natural history were by no means turned on their head in the wake of his work. Darwin succeeded in coopting, or else leaving untouched, the taxonomic conclusions of his colleagues, because he needed to use their conclusions as evidence for his transformist views: time and again, he made points by referring to what a typical naturalists would make of things. By telling them that the kind of knowledge that their taxonomy produced was really about genealogical relationships, Darwin tried to tell naturalist that their judgments were correct even though they had not previously known why this was so: they were sleepwalkers, finding their way in the dark, and Darwin would illuminate them. His argumentative style continually attempted to draw existing practices of classification to his assistance, and made the judgments of his colleagues into surrogate phenomena that would provide evidence for his views. Those colleagues thus constituted a society that established nature by its own practices.
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Research Article| September 01 2014
Darwin’s Sleepwalkers: Naturalists, Nature, and the Practices of Classification
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2014) 44 (4): 297–318.
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Peter Dear; Darwin’s Sleepwalkers: Naturalists, Nature, and the Practices of Classification. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 September 2014; 44 (4): 297–318. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2014.44.4.297
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