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Nomenifers: Are They Christened or Classified?

Helen Heise and Mortimer P. Starr
Systematic Zoology
Vol. 17, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 458-467
DOI: 10.2307/2412043
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2412043
Page Count: 10
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Nomenifers: Are They Christened or Classified?
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Abstract

This paper consists primarily of an inquiry into the logical status and the epistemological role of nomenifers (literally, "name-bearers"; type specimens). The three major codes of biological nomenclature are ambiguous or misleading or equivocal regarding nomenifers, as evidenced by varying interpretations given by different writers. One important issue which can be isolated is the following: if, as the codes and some writers say, the name is "attached" to the nomenifer, it would seem that the name is a proper name. To know the proper name of a nomenifer would be quite useless scientifically; the practices of biologists would be inconsistent with such a view, since class names are needed for science. To clarify this distinction, the differences between class (common, general) names and proper names are examined. There are at least two differences: proper names name individuals and have no intension; class names name groups (or classes) and have intension. A second difficulty, namely, the difference between attaching a name to a description (a set of words) or to an organism (or class of organisms), is pointed out. A further issue, brought out by noting several writer's views, is the unsettledness regarding whether a type specimen must be typical of its species or only an example of its species. Yet another issue, the alleged diremption between nomenclature and taxonomy, is considered with the conclusion that a total separateness does not exist. Our own view of the epistemological role of the nomenifer is that it, like any other member of the species, can serve to ostensively define the name of the species; the nomenifer is different only in being the "official" instance of the species named by the original investigator and, as such, is required to be included in whatever group is called by that name. Consequently, the nomenifer has no privileged logical status; it is a member of a class like any other member of that class. It bears a name by virtue of its membership in the class but, unlike other members of that class, its name cannot change as long as there is a class with that name.

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