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Paul Grobstein's picture

Classification: Why and How?

Senior Seminar in Biology and Society

September 8, 2009

From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1594:

JULIET:
      'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
      Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
      What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
      Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
      Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
      What's in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;
      So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
      Retain that dear perfection which he owes
      Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
      And for that name which is no part of thee
      Take all myself.

Would a rose by any other name actually smell as sweet?  Was Montague no part of Romeo?  Biology, like many other sciences, has its roots in classification, in the naming of things, in categorization.  Do we still need categorization?  Is there a right way to categorize?  Some relevant recent materials for discussion ....

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