What Is the (Arche)Type?

The notion of type in its general meaning is very broad: it appears in various scientific disciplines in quite different hypostases. This makes this notion very ambiguous, including many different meanings, and this is partly reflected in a rather rich terminology. This diversity provides a kind of (arche)type puzzle, which is studied by metatypology.

The main content of the type concept is determined by recognition of a common in particulars, a unity in the plural, a constant in what is transient [Voigt 1973; Vasilieva 1989b, 2003; Lyubarsky 1996; Mahner and Bunge 1997; Filatov et al. 2007; Plotnikov 2010; Pavlinov 2018]. This concept appears in Ancient times in two main versions that treat a type as either a specific standard of comparison or an ideal prototype of the real forms; the second interpretation is reinforced by the notion of archetype as a “primary,” “original” for these forms [Koort 1936; Hammen 1981; Card 1996]. In Medieval theology, divine archetypes are thought of as prototypes of all things; this understanding permeates all natural theology and passes from it into natural philosophy [Amundson 2005]. In this natural-philosophical sense, the type is likened to a law of Nature: as the zoologist A. Naef says, “organisms relate to the type in the same way as events relate to the law they manifest” [Naef 1919: 7]. From this point of view, both the type and natural law (in its physicalist understanding) are quite comparable fundamental attributes of Nature: they are not directly observable but conjectural, and yet they are completely “material” as natural phenomena [Schindewolf 1969; Mahner and Bunge 1997]. Thus understood, the general concept of type is necessarily embedded in any scientific discipline and, in particular, serves as one of the organizing principles of “the biological way of thought” [Beckner 1959; Grene 1974; Bunge 1979; Richards 1992; Lyubarsky 1996; Amundson 2005; Shatalkin 2012; Pozdnyakov 2015].

From a more concrete and still quite natural-philosophical understanding, the type represents a certain generalized structural characteristic of an organism considered in an equally generalized (idealized) form. Such a type expresses a general body plan (Cuvier) or a developmental plan (Baer) or metamorphosis of parts of an archetype (Goethe); it belongs to partonomy and can be designated as the organismic type. With this understanding, the (arche)type concept is applied to any organismal attributes (structures, functions, processes) the diversity of which can be represented as an ordered unity of certain constituents. It played a key role in the initial development of the homology concept, without which no taxonomic (and indeed no comparative) study is possible (see Section 6.6).

Thus “quasi-ontologically” understood, the (arche)type is characterized by a rather complex structure, which is adequate for the structure of the organismal disparity that it is designed to generalize. In fairly advanced typologies, it appears as a hierarchically (“vertically”) organized whole of parts (partons) of different levels of generality [Kalin 1945; Kaspar 1977; Vasilieva 1992, 1998,2003; Beklemishev 1994;

Shatalkin 1994, 2012; Lyubarsky 1996]. Another manifestation of its complexity is its differentiation by “horizontal”: less typical and more typical manifestations can be distinguished in it. Accordingly, the general archetype (alpha archetype) possesses its core (beta archetype) and periphery shaped by a set of styles [Lyubarsky 1996]. Thus, it makes sense to ascribe fuzzy character to the (arche)type understood in this way [Sattler 1996; Hermon and Niccolucci 2002; Pavlinov 2018].

From an epistemic standpoint, the type can be considered a specific informational (cognitive) model of a group of organisms capturing its certain unity and/or specificity according to a certain chosen basis of comparison [Jurgens and Vogel 1965; Voigt 1973; Kaspar 1977]. For this, the principle of typicality is introduced, which presumes that the type as a representation must have a certain special quality, a typehood: it is the latter that allows peculiar properties of a group of organisms to be represented by its (arche) type [Hermon and Niccolucci 2002; Murphy 2002]. Such (arche)type may most appropriately be called a representational type [Love 2009; Pavlinov and Lyubarsky 2011; Moskvitin 2013; Pavlinov 2018]; this conceptualist interpretation is widely adopted in studies based on the typological method as it is generally understood [Weber 1904; Hempel 1965; Bertalanffy 1968; Voigt 1973; Oderberg 2009]. This is a mental construct, so it is an ideal type [Weber 1904] that appears in a cognitive situation as a derivative of all three of its basic components—ontic, epistemic, and subjective [Pavlinov 2018]. The latter’s selective cognitive activity yields a constructed type depending on the choice of certain characters to resolve a particular research task set by a particular researcher [Becker 1940; Bailey 1992]. The above typicality can be understood in different more particular ways. On the one hand, the type can express the most characteristic (literally typical) properties of a group of organisms, so it is a central type [Remane 1956]; it summarizes the disparity of this group, so it is a synthetic type [Smirnov 1925]. On the other hand, the type may reflect a certain extreme property of a group; this is its extreme type [Hempel 1965; Sattler 1996; Filatov et al. 2007].

Most pertinent to the particular tasks of systematics seems to be two basic versions of the (arche)type concept elaborated by the respective versions of typology; these are dynamic and stationary ones (see Section 2.4.3) [Pavlinov 2018]. When considered at an organismal level, they are generalized by the above-mentioned organismic (arche)type as a totality of both structural and transformation relations between partons (parts, organs, etc.) of a generalized (idealized) organism [Meyen 1973, 1978, Kaspar 1977; Lyubarsky 1996]. For the purposes of systematics, these versions are summarized by the concept of classification type as a totality of the typical features of a taxon which determines relations between its members through their relations to its type. The organismic (arche)type serves as the basis for recognizing general and serial homologs, while the classification type allows special homologs to be recognized.

If the historical time dimension is included in the characterization of the (arche) type, it receives an evolutionary interpretation [Hammen 1981; Stevens 1984b]. According to this, a dynamic supra-organismic (arche)type can be considered as a canalized trajectory of the historical development of a complex biological structure, which is called phylocreod [Waddington 1962; Meyen 1984; Wagner and Stadler 2003; Pavlinov 2005, 2018]. An evolutionary shift from one to another phylocreod is caused by a critical reorganization of the “design” (phylotype) of this structure [Sander 1983; Slack et al. 1993; Hall 1996; Richardson et al. 1998]; such reorganizations provide evolutionary-typological definitions of the respective taxa.

A variant of the classification type, understood in quite a simplified form, is an empirical type—a set of diagnostic characters used to identify a certain group of organisms [Read 1974; Klein 1991]. This group can be recognized as a taxon in its typological understanding, as a monophyletic group, as a life form, etc., so its empirical type depends completely on its prior context-dependent definition. For instance, in cladistics, a set of synapomorphies distinguishing a clade can be considered its empirical type [Nelson 1979; Pavlinov 1990; Shatalkin 1994]. Empirical typology, based on the use of quantitative methods, recognizes computed type defined as a sample centroid [Smirnov 1924,1925]. In its broadest interpretation, empirical (arche) type is suggested to encompass all characters of a group, including ecological ones [Meyen and Shreyder 1976]. It seems that such an “all-encompassing” interpretation of (arche)type deprives it of its original meaning and brings typology developing this version closer to classification phenetics.

Finally, mention should be made of a purely applied concept of the type as a concrete physical object taken as an example of a certain set of objects. In systematics, this variant corresponds to the collection type, the Codes of Nomenclature assign reference function to it and thus make it the nomenclature type [Farber 1976; Ogilvie 2006; Pavlinov 2015].

The epistemic significance of the (arche)type concept is undeniable: it is a necessary element of the synthetic phase of the cognitive activity, allowing the studied phenomena to be presented in a generalized form. An ontical aspect of this concept is seriously criticized as being groundless: it is indicated that there is nothing in Nature that would correspond to an (arche)type from any understanding. This criticism is based on an extremely simplified understanding of type, which is particularly characteristic of empiricism. The general concept of contemporary essentialism [Ellis 2001; Walsh 2006; Oderberg 2009; Rieppel 2010b] makes many of the negative assessments addressed to this concept untenable: it implies that certain natural phenomena are indeed endowed with some specific, fairly stable emergent features that may be denoted as their (arche)types. Such a standpoint presumes that the (arche) type puzzle can be reasonably resolved in a pluralistic manner only.

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