The First Thinker of Paleontology— er, “Palaetiology” — Extinct

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I started this essay by expressing dissatisfaction with the phrase “philosophy of paleontology.” Am I now ready to name myself a “thinker of palaetiology”? I’m not. Some phrases move out of utilization for a cause, and whereas palaetiology just isn’t an ugly phrase, it would not precisely journey off the tongue.

Nonetheless, I’m inclined to offer the ultimate phrase to Whewell, who occurs to be one in every of my very favourite philosophers. So right here he’s, expounding the worth of palaetiological science for a basic liberal schooling. After suggesting that “the chemical sciences… are usually not this present day in a situation which makes them necessary basic components of a liberal schooling,” Whewell notes that there’s one other class of sciences, the palaetiological, “which from the largeness of their views and the exactness of one of the best parts of their reasonings, are effectively fitted to type a part of that philosophical self-discipline which a liberal schooling ought to incorporate.”

These [sciences], [including] ethnography, or comparative philology, and geology, are amongst these progressive sciences which can be most correctly taken right into a liberal schooling as instructive situations of the vast and wealthy discipline of details and reasonings with which fashionable science offers, nonetheless retaining, in lots of its steps, nice rigour of proof; and as an animating show additionally of the massive and grand vistas of time, succession, and causation, that are open to the speculative powers of man.

Let these phrases stand as an commercial for Extinct: The Philosophy of Palaetiology—er, Palaeontology—Weblog!


Bakewell, R. 1815. An Introduction to Geology: Comprising the Parts of the Science in its Current Superior State and all of the Current Discoveries; with an Define of the Geology of England and Wales. London: Longman, Hurst, Orme, Brown, and Inexperienced.

De la Beche, H.T. 1834. Researches in Theoretical Geology. London: Charles Knight.

Fitton, W. 1817. Transactions of the Geological Society, established 1807. Edinburgh Evaluation 18:70– 94.

Hodge, M.J.S. 1991. The historical past of the earth, life, and man: Whewell and palaetiological science. In M. Fisch and S. Schaffer (Eds.), William Whewell: A Composite Portrait, 253–288. Oxford: Oxford College Press.

Lyell, Charles. 1830. Rules of Geology, Being an Try and Clarify the Former Modifications of the Earth’s Floor, by Reference to Causes now in Operation (First Version). London: John Murray.

Rudwick, M.J.S. 1982. The Nice Devonian Controversy: The Shaping of Scientific Information Amongst Gentlemanly Specialists. Chicago: College of Chicago Press.

Rudwick, M.J.S. 2005. Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory within the Age of Revolution. Chicago: College of Chicago Press.

Whewell, W. 1831. Lyell’s Rules of Geology, Quantity 1. British Critic and Quarterly Theological Evaluation 9:180–206.

Whewell, W. 1837. Historical past of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Current Time. London: John W. Parker.

Whewell, W. 1840. Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Based upon their Historical past. London: John W. Parker.

For Some Extra Assets on Whewell, see:

Snyder, L.J. 2006. Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society. Chicago: College of Chicago Press.

Snyder, L.J. 2011. The Philosophical Breakfast Membership: 4 Exceptional Pals who Reworked Science and Modified the World. New York: Broadway Books.

Quinn, A. 2016. William Whewell’s philosophy of structure and the historicization of biology.” Research in Historical past and Philosophy of Organic and Biomedical Sciences 59:11–19.

Quinn, A. 2017. Whewell on classification and consilience. Research in Historical past and Philosophy of Science Half C: Research in Historical past and Philosophy of Organic and Biomedical Sciences 1:65–74.

Yeo, R. 1993. Defining Science: William Whewell, Pure Information, and Public Debate in Early Victorian Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge College Press.

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