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The philosophy of science is epistemological, evaluating methodology, and the classification of the sciences is ontological, organizing the sciences and their objects. Both seek a universal structure of knowledge based on a scientific understanding of reality. This paper analyzes seminal texts by Robert Flint and E. C. Richardson and W. C. Berwick Sayers to trace the development of the inflexible and culturally-specific modern classificatory structure that has now become globalized. Richardson and Sayers described a model akin to Flint’s, focusing on unity and the differences between natural and artificial classifications. Of these, natural classification is truer, but not easily applicable. Artificial classification is more readily adaptable. Ultimately the boundary between the two is indistinct, especially in practice. Two US classifications, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale and the Dewey Decimal Classification for hurricanes, exemplify these difficulties. One classifies natural phenomena and the other classifies resources about natural things. Artificial classification displays a flexibility that is worth exploring as an accommodating alternative to mainstream perspectives.


  • philosophy of science
  • classification of the sciences
  • natural classification
  • artificial classification
  • modern classifications
Hope A. Olson
Jihee Beak
Inkyung Choi
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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