chapter  5
Protein tokens, types, and taxa
Pages 13

Recently, philosophers have begun to discuss the scientific classification of proteins – and their discussion has rather predictably focused on whether protein classification is monist or pluralist.1 But this is much too blunt a question. When one speaks of ‘protein classification’, there are at least three different scientific practices to which one might refer: (1) the practice of characterizing the concept protein; (2) the practice of identifying to which protein type a token protein belongs; or (3) the practice of arranging protein types into hierarchical classification schemes, or protein taxonomies. Since the monist/pluralist status of each of these classificatory practices is relatively independent of one another, it makes little sense to speak of protein classification in general as monist or pluralist. One has to specify which particular classificatory practice to which one intends to refer, and then look carefully and specifically at that bit of the scientific practice, in order to figure out whether it is indeed monist or pluralist.