Thursday, March 15, 2012

[PHI 1000] Does classification imply explanation?

We all know the saying, "correlation does not imply causation." Does classification imply explanation? In other words, by classifying a thing into a certain category have we answered any questions about the nature of that thing?

For example, by saying that John and Jane are members of the species Homo sapiens, have we explained what makes them human? Similarly, by saying that Homo sapiens belong to the genus Homo, have we explained what makes them humans?

By way of illustration, consider the following exchange:
  • What makes us human?
  • A human is a member of the species Homo sapiens.
  • What makes something a member of that species?
  • Members of the species Homo sapiens belong to the family Homonidae.
  • What makes something a homonid?
  • A hominid is a member of the order Primates.
  • What makes something a primate?
  • A primate is a member of the class Mammalia.
  • What makes something a mammal?
  • A mammal is a member of the kingdom Animalia.
  • What makes something an animal?
and so on, and so on, to infinity (and beyond).

Have we answered the question what makes us human?

Does classification imply explanation?

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