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::: center home >> people >> postdoctoral fellows >> amitani

Yuichi Amitani
University of British Columbia, Canada
Academic Year 2011-12
Project: Doing Without Definition - Species as a Proxy Concept

Yuichi's specialty is philosophy of biological systematics. He is also interested in evolutionary explanation of human rationality (e.g., fast and frugal heuristics).

His research project is to analyze the concept of species as a `proxy' concept and apply the analysis to other concepts in science. In the dissertation he described how biologists communicate concerning species when they have no particular definition of ‘species,’ and argued that the notion of “good species” is a prototype of the concept species as explicated in cognitive psychology. To extend this approach, he plans to explore the role played by species as what he calls a “proxy concept.” The need for a proxy concept arises when there are competing definitions associated with the concept, and no consensus as to which definition is correct. It stands in for a definition and thus helps biologists communicate concerning theories of speciation and species diversity, all the while disagreeing about the definitions of ‘species.’

When Yuichi is not doing research, he likes to run and swim. He also loves to watch professional Shogi (a Japanese version of chess) matches via Internet. He used to do tea ceremony for a few years but is afraid he now forgot everything he learned.

2014 Update

Book Review: "Rationality and the Reflective Mind", (Keith Stanovich, Oxford University Press), PHS Studies, 8: 88-91.

2015 Update


  • Amitani, Y. (2015) ``The natural frequency hypothesis and evolutionary arguments,'' Mind & Society 14(1): 1-19 DOI: 10.1007/s11299-014-0155-7
  • Amitani, Y. (in press) ``Prototypical Reasoning about Species and the Species Problem,'' Biological Theory. DOI: 10.1007/s13752-015-0204-4
    (The penultimate version available at PhilSci Archive:


"Species Without Definitions --- Applying Psychology to Resolve the Species Problem,'' Cognitive Science of Science: Kazimierz Naturalist Workshop 2014, Kazimierz Dolny, Poland, August 2014

2016 Update

published 3 papers in English:

Amitani, Y. (2016) "A tale of two minds: Past, present and future,"
Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science, 24, pp.
Amitani, Y. (2015) "Prototypical reasoning about species and the
species problem," Biological Theory, 10(4), pp. 289-300. DOI:
10.1007/s13752-015-0204-4. (The penultimate version is available at
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/11464/ )
Amitani, Y. (2015) "The natural frequency hypothesis and evolutionary
arguments," Mind &Society, 14(1), pp. 1-19. DOI:

Amitani, Y., "Did Machiavellian Thinking Shape the Refective Mind?,"
The 15th Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science,
University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

2017 Update

I published a book in Japanese:

Amitani, Y., The Origin of Rationality: Humans Are Too Smart and Too Stupid. Kawade Shobo Shinsha (in Japanese), February 2017. This book is reviewed in two prestigious newspapers, Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun Newspapers.

I gave two talks in English:

Amitani, Y., ``Doing Science without Theoretical Commitment: Exploratory Research and The Structure of the Concept of Species,'' NUS Workshop `Scientific Controversy in a Complex Social World,' National University of Singapore, Singapore, December 2016.

Amitani, Y., ``What Biologists Talk About When They Talk About Species,'' The 3rd Conference on Contemporary Philosophy in East Asia, Seoul National University, South Korea, August 2016.

I was also awarded the Young Researcher's Award from the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science for my paper "A tale of two minds: Past, present and future" (Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science, 24, pp. 21-43).





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