on plants classification

Last week as part of the Philosopher’s Zone program on ABC radio, Alan Saunders interviewed Sverker Sörlin, Professor of Environmental History at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

The subject of the interview was Carl von Linné, better known now by his latin name Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist who invented the modern system of botanical classification, the binomial system, where you just use the genus and the species name:

Much of philosophy is about how we divide the world up – into things, ideas, species, breeds, genera – and the people at the coal-face of this work are the naturalists. This week, we learn about the great Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, who invented the the modern system of plant classification and, in doing so, changed the world.

Learning about Linnaeus from a philosophical point of view sparks up very interesting questions of legitimacy, as in the human need to understand the world around us by simplifying and subcategorizing it all in various defined “filing systems”.

With the publication Systema Naturae, printed in the Netherlands in 1735, Linnaeus started a life-long journey of self-promotion an self-assertion as the new Adam in the Garden of Eden, giving names to all of the plants and animals of the world.


See his writings here and here.
You can download the transcript of the program here and the podcast here.

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