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Volume 2011, Article ID 501983, 9 pages
Research Article

The Ontology of Biological Groups: Do Grasshoppers Form Assemblages, Communities, Guilds, Populations, or Something Else?

Department of Philosophy, University of Wyoming, Department 3392, 1000 E. University Avenue, Laramie, WY 82071, USA

Received 5 August 2010; Accepted 11 November 2010

Academic Editor: Alexandre Latchininsky

Copyright © 2011 Jeffrey A. Lockwood. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Acridologists have used a variety of terms to describe groups of grasshoppers, including assemblage, community, guild, and population. This terminological diversity has raised the question of whether one of these descriptors is the correct one. I take the position that these terms pick out different features of the natural world such that there is no unconditionally or uniquely correct term. By adopting the framework of constrained perspectivism—a form of philosophical pragmatism—it is argued that a term is correct if it accurately reflects the conceptual framework of the investigator and effectively communicates this perspective to others. Such an approach gives rise to terminological pluralism that avoids the problems of relativism (the subjectivist's view that any term can be used) and absolutism (the objectivist's view that there is a single correct term). I describe the contexts in which the most common terms are appropriate.