Professor Laura Franklin-Hall (NYU) will present “Why are some kinds historical and others not?” in Room 5307 at the Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 5th Avenue, New York City.
This talk explores why scientists sometimes classify entities by their origins, and other times based exclusively on their non-historical or ‘synchronic’ properties. After reviewing examples of these two approaches, I formulate a principle designed to both describe and explain this aspect of our scientific classificatory practice. According to this proposal, a domain is apt for historical classifications just when the probability of the independent emergence of similar entities (PIES) in that domain is very low. In addition to rationalizing this principle and showing its ability to correctly account for classification practices across the natural and social sciences, I will consider the nature of the probabilities that are at its core.