Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
John S. Wilkins
Ontology is that branch of philosophy that asks what exists. Traditionally, this has been understood to mean what kinds of things exist in general, but in recent times, it has also been applied to mean what objects a scientific theory requires to actually exist if it is to explain the phenomena. We must therefore ask what things evolutionary theory requires to exist. This is, of course, distinct from the question of what things we can observe or measure , which is a matter of epistemology, not ontology. In metaphysics, a distinction is sometimes made between types of things, and tokens of the types. A similar and related issue is whether things are classes that can be defined or individuals that can only be described or ostensively defined (i.e., pointed at). Most evolutionary objects have been interpreted to be either types and classes or tokens and individuals. Part of the Evolution ...