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Philosophical Topics

Volume 47, Issue 1, Spring 2019

The Philosophy of Ecology

James Justus
Pages 105-123

Ecological Theory and the Superfluous Niche

Perhaps no concept has been thought more important to ecological theorizing than the niche. Without it, technically sophisticated and well-regarded accounts of character displacement, ecological equivalence, limiting similarity, and others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche is also widely considered the centerpiece of the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array and imprecise character of proposed definitions of the concept square poorly with its apparent scientific centrality. I argue this definitional diversity and imprecision reflects a problematic conceptual indeterminacy that challenges its putative indispensability in ecology.

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