Friday, 18 June 2010 – Saturday, 19 June 2010

Location: CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge, United Kingdom

For online registration, go to:

Conference convenors:

James Delbourgo  (Rutgers University), Sachiko Kusukawa (Cambridge

University) and Justin Smith (Concordia University)

Conference Summary

The etymology of ‘species’ relates to the identification of kinds, types and varieties; appearances, forms and likenesses; specimens and portions, either exemplary or rough and incomplete; and spices and drugs. All these definitions imply skills and systems of assembling, inspecting and judging. The phrase ‘in kind’ (also ‘in specie’) describes exchanges in which equivalence or agreement is established between parties to mutual satisfaction, while ‘specie’ has more specifically denoted the basis of economic exchange in terms of intrinsic rather than symbolic worth. ‘Species’ thus connects a number of domains through the identification of kinds; an ideal of self-evident credibility; and the forging of relations and exchanges out of potentially incommensurable varieties.

This workshop proposes to interrogate the relations among philosophies and practices of species designation in the decades around the turn of the eighteenth century. Well-known controversies over the character of such designations achieved prominence at this time. John Locke’s scepticism about the possibility of discerning essential natural kinds, and John Ray’s debate with Augustus Rivinus and Joseph Pitton de Tournefort over whether the process of determining botanical species could be philosophical rather than pragmatic, are merely two of the period’s best-known interventions. Locke’s profile is nonetheless ideally suggestive for the re-assessment we propose: the species sceptic who also argued against the existence of an essential human nature kept his own

herbarium of exotic plants, and enjoyed important links to the Royal Africa Company, the Council of Trade and Plantations and the colonization of Carolina. In other words, global exchange relations furnished compelling new objects for philosophical contemplation, confronting philosophers and naturalists alike with puzzling varieties of vegetables, minerals, animals, objects and humans.

Our aim is to examine the question of species designation both in philosophical systems and quotidian practices. What methods, resources and exchanges did designation projects involve? How did practical techniques – especially manual and visual – intersect with the articulation of philosophical accounts of the designation of kinds? To what extent were reckonings of plant, animal and human variation (understood either physically or culturally) related concerns in larger programmes of natural history and natural philosophy? Our hypothesis is that before more celebrated episodes in global histories of Enlightenment classification, ethnographic encounter and racial reckoning (in particular, Linnaean systematics and the Pacific voyages and comparative anatomy projects of

the later eighteenth century), travel, commerce and colonization raised pressing questions about the very possibility of contriving reasoned mechanisms of equivalence, discrimination and taxonomy. These questions invite a sustained interdisciplinary assessment to shed light on the early modern functioning of global information systems, resource networks, and philosophies of natural order.


This provisional programme is subject to change.

Friday 18 June

12:00 – 13.10

Registration, Lunch and Opening

13:10 – 13:30


Afternoon Session

Chair: Emma Spary (University College London)

13:30 – 14:30

Brian Ogilvie (History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Order of Insects: Insect Species from Jan Swammerdam to August Johann Roesel von Rosenhof

14:30 – 15:30

Alix Cooper (History, SUNY, Stony Brook)

Dealing in Difference: Natural History and Exchange in Early Enlightenment Danzig

15:30 – 16:00

Tea Break

16:00 – 17:00

Justin Smith (Philosophy, Concordia University)

Leibniz on Natural History and National History




Conference dinner

Saturday 19 June

Morning Session

Chair: Catherine Wilson (The City University of New York)

9:30 – 10:30

Peter Anstey (Philosophy, University of Otago)

Essentialism and Baconian Natural History in the late Seventeenth Century

10:30 – 11:00

Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:00

James Delbourgo (History, Rutgers University)

Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate and the Whole History of the Cacao

12:00 – 13:00

Daniel Carey (English, National University of Ireland)

Locke’s Money Problem: Of Species and Specie

13:00 – 14:30

Lunch Break

Afternoon Session

Chair: Sachiko Kusukawa (University of Cambridge)

14:30 – 15:30

Kelly Whitmer (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)

Gathering Kinds, Assembling Models: Pietist Philanthropy’s Global Enterprises, 1700-1730

15:30 – 16:30

Staffan Müller-Wille (Sociology and Philosophy, University of Exeter)

Taxonomic Wars: Seventeenth Century Debates from Linnaeus’ Point of View

16:30 – 17:00

Tea Break

17:00 – 17:45

Closing Roundtable Discussion: Participants and Audience